BEFORE a crowd of men on a street in the Syrian city of Palmyra, the masked Islamic State group judge read out the sentence against the two men convicted of homosexuality: They would be thrown to their deaths from the roof of the nearby Wael Hotel.
He asked one of the men if he was satisfied with the sentence. Death, the judge told him, would help cleanse him of his sin.
“I’d prefer it if you shoot me in the head,” 32-year-old Hawas Mallah replied helplessly. The second man, 21-year-old Mohammed Salameh, pleaded for a chance to repent, promising never to have sex with a man again, according to a witness among the onlookers that sunny July morning who gave The Associated Press a rare first-hand account.
“Take them and throw them off,” the judge ordered. Other masked extremists tied the men’s hands behind their backs and blindfolded them. They led them to the roof of the four-storey hotel, according to the witness, who spoke in the Turkish city of Reyhanli on condition he be identified only by his first name, Omar, for fear of reprisals.
Notorious for their gruesome methods of killing, the Islamic State group reserves one of its most brutal for suspected homosexuals. Videos it has released show masked militants dangling men over the precipices of buildings by their legs to drop them headfirst or tossing them over the edge. At least 36 men in Syria and Iraq have been killed by IS militants on charges of sodomy, according to the New York-based OutRight Action International, though its Middle East and North Africa co-ordinator, Hossein Alizadeh, said it was not possible to confirm the sexual orientation of the victims.
Do we allow them to expand and expand, taking more territory, or do we stop them?