ISLAM THE RELIGION OF LOVE AND PEACE: Amid brazen, deadly attacks, gay Syrians tell of fear of ISIS persecution

CNN)The photographs released by ISIS in its stronghold of Raqqa are dated March 2015. The first ones show a large crowd, mostly men, but also among them a handful of women and children, all looking up.

Three men on top of a building, faces covered in black balaclavas, stand on either side of their victim, while a fourth seems to be taking a photo or video.

Their victim is thrown off the building. In the last photograph, he is seen face down, surrounded by a small crowd of men, most carrying weapons, some with rocks in their hands. The caption reads “stoned to death.”

The victim brutally killed because he was accused of being gay.

There are at least half a dozen documented cases of men being similarly killed by ISIS. What’s even more sickening for Nour, a gay Syrian man, is the onlookers’ reaction.

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One gay couple CNN spoke to said they fled Syria after a car tried to run them over.

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“It’s too much to watch, and people are just standing there in these images and watching, and they are not doing anything, and their facial expressions are really scary because they are not even scared of what is going on,” says Nour, who’s also an LGBT rights activist. “They might be a little bit excited or maybe happy to get rid of homosexuals in the city.”

Though in Istanbul, fear of persecution continues to haunt Nour, who asked us to conceal his identity as he waits and hopes for asylum in America and continues to campaign for rights for people who are LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans.

A history of abuse

As a teenager, over a decade ago, Nour suffered because of his sexuality.

“The worst bullying was at school,” he remembers. “I was approached in the street a number of times, verbally abused and sometimes physically abused.”

There was no one to protect him. His family rejected his sexual orientation, his country criminalized it.

Article 520 of the Syrian Penal Code of 1949 states: “Any unnatural sexual intercourse shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to three years.”

Nour left Syria in 2012, before ISIS took over huge swaths of the country, after seeing a video of two men being beheaded. According to the voice on the clip, they are accused of being spies. Then toward the end, the voice speaks about “shaking the throne of God.”

“Whenever we hear this in video or audio, we know that this is exactly meant for gay people,” he says. “It was the moment of clarity, the moment of understanding; this place is not safe anymore.”

The pictures released by ISIS and other videos refer to gay men as the tribe of Lot, who, according to readings of the Quran and the hadith, or prophetic traditions, sinned by refusing Prophet Lot’s call to cease their homosexual activity and led to the destruction of Sodom. One hadith states, “When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes.”

Since the revolution turned war in Syria, the situation for the nation’s LGBT community has become even more dire.

“LGBT people in Syria need help, and they need to be supported. We tried to reach out to some groups, international entities, and they said that LGBT people in Syria are not our priority, and that would mean that our lives are not worthy for them to rescue,” Nour says.

This week, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a nongovernmental organization based in New York, started “Don’t Turn Away,” an awareness-raising campaign calling for action to protect LGBT Syrians and Iraqis from ISIS’ merciless brutality.

On its website, the group states, “What is clear is the Islamic State’s intent — to spread terror among an already persecuted population in the region and to warn against any kind of ‘moral’ transgression.”

The commission is calling on governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to expedite resettlement and refugee applications for LGBTs.

Driven away by threats

Sami and his partner are among those waiting. Dressed in matching outfits, they already consider themselves married, laughing about how they first met online. They too, like Nour, don’t want their identities revealed.

When Sami’s family found out about his relationship, he says, his brother tried to beat him up. He started to receive threatening phone calls from family and strangers.

This past summer, while the couple was walking in the streets in Damascus, a car tried to run them over.

“I was able to pull myself away, but my husband couldn’t,” Sami recalls. “The car hit his leg and he fell to the ground.”

There is no doubt that it was a deliberate attempt to kill them. Two hours after the attack, Sami’s phone rang.

“There was a man who said this time you could have made it, you could have survived, but the next time you will not.”

The couple fled to Turkey a few months ago, but they can’t shake the fear that their relationship could cost them their lives.

They share housing with other Syrian refugees, where they have to continue to pretend that they are straight. When the ISIS photographs emerged, one of their housemates made a sickening comment.

“He made an absurd joke about how he was so amused, had too much fun watching homosexuals. He says now gay men can fly.”

They say they will never return to Syria. And neither will Nour.

“It’s too damaging for my psychological state, because I have been abused too much from my family, friends, school. It’s not safe for me psychologically or physically,” he says.

I DON’T GET IT. THE U.K.’S STREETS ARE FULL OF MUSLIMS TRYING TO KILL THEM YET THEY PICK ON THE JEWS. ‘Jew, Jew, Jew… Run’: Social experiment suggests rising UK anti-Semitism

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A social experiment designed to gauge levels of anti-Semitism in Britain turned up some shocking results.

Journalist Jonathan Kalmus set out to get a sense of anti-Jewish feeling in the UK by donning religious dress and visiting two UK cities.

Wearing the traditional kippah head covering, he walked around the streets of Manchester and Bradford. He said he was almost immediately subject to anti-Semitic abuse.

Read moreSOAS

Anti-Semitic attacks reach record UK high, Israel’s Gaza offensive blamed – study

He heard slurs including “Fight the Jewish scum,” and was told: “Jew, Jew, Jew… Run.” The racist comments included, he says, those from a small boy who was walking with his father. In Bradford one passer-by spat at him, he claims.

In January a YouGov poll asked 3,411 UK adults about their attitudes toward UK Jewish citizens. It found that 45 percent polled believed at least one anti-Semitic view presented to them was “definitely or probably true.”

Many found clichés and stereotypes about Jews to be true. One in four believed Jewish people “chase money more than others,” while one in six people felt Jews thought they were better than other people and had too much power in the media.

Gideon Falter, chairman of The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), which commissioned the study, said: “Britain is at a tipping point. Unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will grow and British Jews will increasingly question their place in their own country. Britain’s Jews must be shown that they are not alone.”

‘Indiscriminately targets all Israelis’

Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) voted down a motion on Thursday to break ties with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in a move which was heavily criticized by some Jewish students.

Read more

Israel academic boycott: Jewish SOAS students ‘intimidated’ by BDS activists

Ben Goldstein, who proposed the motion and was quoted in the Jewish Chronicle, argued the BDS movement “indiscriminately targets all Israelis.” The move was rejected by 72 votes to 30, with 28 people abstaining.

Last Friday the students’ union of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London ruled on the issue as part of its Israeli Apartheid week. The union voted in favor of a full academic boycott of Israel.

The poll involved over two thousand students and staff. The boycott passed by a margin of around 75 percent, with 425 students opposing the motion.

The union has been associated with the BDS campaign since 2005. The SOAS branch of the movement featured centrally in the build up to the vote, calling for the referendum late last year.

On Thursday Jewish students at SOAS complained of intimidation.

One student was allegedly told to “f*** off to Israel,” while another said they are afraid to go to lectures or student common rooms for fear of being verbally abused.

Some Jewish students claim the atmosphere on campus has become increasingly difficult since the BDS campaign began.

Dems vow to protect Boehner from conservative coup

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By Mike Lillis03/06/15 06:00 AM EST

Tea Party Republicans contemplating a bid to oust Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) shouldn’t count on Democrats to help them unseat the Speaker.

And without their support, there is no chance to topple Boehner in this Congress.

A number of right-wing Republicans, long wary of Boehner’s commitment to GOP efforts attacking President Obama’s policy priorities, have openly considered a coup in an attempt to transfer the gavel into more conservative hands.

But Democrats from across an ideological spectrum say they’d rather see Boehner remain atop the House than replace him with a more conservative Speaker who would almost certainly be less willing to reach across the aisle in search of compromise. Replacing him with a Tea Party Speaker, they say, would only bring the legislative process — already limping along — to a screeching halt.

“I’d probably vote for Boehner [because] who the hell is going to replace him? [Ted] Yoho?” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said Wednesday, referencing the Florida Tea Party Republican who’s fought Boehner on a host of bipartisan compromise bills. 

“In terms of the institution, I would rather have John Boehner as the Speaker than some of these characters who came here thinking that they’re going to change the world,” Pascrell added.

Liberal Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) agreed that, for Democrats, replacing Boehner could lead to a worse situation.  

“Then we would get Scalise or somebody? Geez, come on,” said Grijalva, who referenced House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). “We can be suicidal but not stupid.”

Boehner, who has grappled with dissent from the Tea Party wing since he took the Speaker’s gavel in 2011, has seen opposition to his reign grow this year, even as he commands the largest GOP majority since the Hoover administration. 

That’s led to talk of a new coup, something that is more difficult to pull off after the election of a Speaker on each Congress’s first day of business.

Any lawmaker can file a motion to “vacate” a sitting Speaker, a move that would force a vote of the full House. The effort would almost certainly fail, as the conservatives would need the overwhelming support of Democrats to win a majority. But it would be an embarrassing setback to Boehner and his leadership team, who entered the year hoping their commanding new majority would alleviate some of the whipping problems that had plagued them in the past.

The new push back against Boehner began in the earliest stages of the new Congress when 25 conservatives voted in January to strip him of the Speaker’s gavel.

Boehner’s troubles have only mounted since then, as conservatives have thwarted a number of his early legislative priorities, including a border security bill, an anti-abortion measure and a proposal to limit the federal government’s role in public education — all considered by GOP leaders to be easy-pass bills that would highlight their new power in Obama’s final two years in the White House.

More recently, Boehner’s decision this week to pass a “clean” bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has exacerbated conservatives’ concerns about his leadership.

As proof of the discontent, 167 Republicans bucked their leadership by opposing the DHS package. Their votes protested Boehner’s move to strip out provisions undoing Obama’s executive actions shielding millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. from deportation. 

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) called Boehner’s capitulation “a sad day for America.”

“If we aren’t going to fight now, when are we going to fight?” he said Tuesday just before the vote.

Every Democrat joined 75 Republicans in passing the bill.

In the midst of that debate, a number of Tea Party Republicans warned that they’d consider an attempt to topple Boehner if he caved to Obama’s demand for a clean DHS bill.

“If it happened, conservatives would be outraged,” said one such conservative who voted against Boehner in January. The lawmaker predicted that the coup attempt might not come immediately but warned the Speaker, “It’s a long year.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus and a critic of Boehner’s legislative moves, said recently that no coup is in the works.

“That’s not the point,” Jordan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “The point is to do what we told the voters we were going to do and do it in a way that’s consistent with the United States Constitution.”

Citing Jordan’s comments, top Democrats have punted on the question of whether they would support a coup. Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, acknowledged that there are “some disgruntled people who are talking about it,” but predicted that no such effort will materialize.

“If Jordan’s not talking about — he’s the head of the Freedom Caucus — it’s not going to happen,” Hoyer said this week.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, suggested the Democratic minority simply has no place deciding the Speakership for the majority.

“If they’ve got the votes to make it happen, then they should act accordingly. But I would not want Democrats to be a part of that,” Butterfield said. “I would give deference to the choice of the Republicans.”

Still, some Democrats noted the political advantages for their party if the Republican divisions reach the point where Boehner is ousted. The Democrats have almost no shot of winning back the House in 2016 but highlighting the GOP turmoil could help them bite away at the Republicans’ majority. 

“I think it would pose a real existential dilemma for us,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). “I mean, on the one hand, if you have a chance to take out a Republican Speaker, why wouldn’t you do that? On the other hand, if the obvious alternative is a Tea Party Speaker, now you’ve got to worry not only about your own political situation but frankly about the institution. 

“I think that would give very serious pause to the Democrats.”

Other Democrats suggested they would side with Boehner for one simple reason: They’re hoping to move bipartisan legislation this Congress and see Boehner as a more moderate leader with a penchant for compromise. 

“Personally, I don’t want to waste two years,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said Wednesday. “And I think that the crazy Tea Party type would probably not be willing to work with us on anything. 

“My hope is that, what comes out of this is that Boehner realizes that there are some people in his caucus who are unreasonable, and you can never get them to say ‘yes’ to anything,” McGovern added. “Rather than spending so much time agonizing over how to please them, maybe he just ought to focus on how you build more bipartisan coalitions and actually get some things done.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has declined to weigh in on the conservatives’ discontent. Hinting at her own radioactive image in the eyes of Republicans, she vowed not to get involved in the debate.  

“I don’t have any intention of getting involved in the politics of that Caucus,” she said recently. “They have enough trouble getting along with each other.  I don’t think I should inject myself into that.”

‘COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR THE RULE OF LAW’ Obama’s Lawyers Deceived A Court On Amnesty Handouts

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NEIL MUNRO

White House Correspondent

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking a judge to allow an investigation of the closed-door workings of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, following the discovery that 100,000 illegal immigrants had secretly been given three-year amnesty documents well before a promised start date.

“The Obama Administration appears to have already been issuing expanded work permits, in direct contradiction to what they told a federal judge previously in this litigation,” Paxton said in a Thursday statement describing his legal request, which was signed by the governors or attorneys general of 26 states.

“The circumstances behind this must be investigated, and the motion we seek would help us determine to what extent the Administration might have misrepresented the facts in this case,” he added.

The judge has frozen Obama’s amnesty since Feb. 16, pending the future decisions of appeals court judges. Without the judge’s decision, Obama’s deputies already would be preparing work permits and tax rebates for illegals.

Paxton’s hardball response was cheered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. ”I commend Attorney General Paxton for continuing to hold the Obama Administration accountable, and I’m confident an investigation would find the Administration knowingly or recklessly misled a Federal Court in issuing thousands of amnesty documents illegally,” he said Thursday.

“President Obama has continued to show complete disregard for the Rule of Law by acting beyond his Constitutional authority at every stage of this process,” he added.

The judge, Andrew Hanen, showed his skepticism about the administration in a 2014 case, when he said border officers were being used by the administration to illegally transfer foreign children from Central America to their parents living illegally in U.S. cities.

On Feb. 16, Hanen froze Obama’s two-part amnesty, which was intended to provide residency, work permits and tax rebates to at least four million illegals, after concluding it likely violated the federal government’s rule-making process.

The amnesty for roughly 1 million younger illegals is called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and it was launched in June 2012, five months before the 2012 election. Obama’s November amnesty extends the work permits given to the younger illegals from two years to three years.

The amnesty for roughly 4 million parent illegals is called DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Obama’s plan would give them work permits, tax rebates, Social Security numbers, drivers’ license and a fast-track to citizenship.

In November, administration statements had declared it would not start the DACA upgrade until Feb. 18, and would not start the DAPA amnesty until in May 2015. On Jan. 15, Obama’s lawyer told the judge that “no applications for the revised DACA … would be accepted until the 18th of February.”

But Obama’s deputies were already handing out the three-year DACA amnesties. By mid-February, 100,000 three-year amnesties had been given to illegals who had received two-year amnesties in 2012 or 2013.

On March 3, Obama’s lawyers admitted to the judge that officials had already given the three-year DACA amnesties to 100,000 people, according to a March 4 article in the Washington Examiner.

“Out of an abundance of caution, however, Defendants wish to bring one issue to the Court’s attention,” said the administration’s document given to the judge. “Between November 24, 2014 and the issuance of the Court’s [Feb. 16] Order, USCIS granted three-year periods of deferred action to approximately 100,000 individuals who had requested deferred action under the original 2012 DACA guidelines.”

The officials excused the deception by claiming that the announced Feb. 18 start date “may have led to confusion about when USCIS had begun providing three-year terms of deferred action to individuals already eligible for deferred action under 2012 DACA.”

The administration’s “confusion” was exposed March 3, the same day that top GOP leaders allied with Democrats to pressure GOP legislators to pass a budget bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The budget did pass, and it doesn’t block funding for Obama’s unpopular and possibly illegal amnesty.