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Iraqi cleric Sadr rejecting violence against homosexuals ‘important step’

Moqtada al-Sadr says homosexuals still have the right to live

Published: Updated:

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has praised on Thursday Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for issuing a decree urging people not to attack homosexuals, dubbing the clergyman’s statement as an “important step” towards tolerance.

Al-Sadr, who has a big number of followers in Iraq, maintained in his statement that same-sex relationships, cross-dressing, and not abiding by traditional gender norms are unacceptable and “forbidden” in religion.

But he said homosexuals still had the right to live unharmed despite suffering from “psychological problems.”

“[You] must disassociate from them [but] not attack them, as it increases their aversion and you must guide them using acceptable and rational means,” he said in a statement.

This is the not the first time Sadr makes a statement urging people not to attack homosexuals.

In 2009, he said “the only remedy” to “stop” homosexuality is through “preaching and guidance” but not violence.

His 2009 statement followed an incident where Iraqi police found bullet-riddled bodies of three men said to have been homosexuals.

The decree also comes after almost a decade’s worth of HRW reports on documented killings, kidnappings, and torture of homosexuals and perceived homosexuals by militia groups, including al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

The Iraqi LGBT+ rights organization IraQueer said in a statement on their website that it was a “historical milestone” for the community “which has been living in fear and facing violations for more than a decade.”

In 2009, the HRW said Iraqi militias launched a “campaign” of “extrajudicial” killings and torture against the community and those perceived to be gay including ‘Emo’ teens over the years, with Iraq authorities doing “nothing” to stop them.

There are no laws against homosexuality in Iraq but prominent religious authorities have condemned it, with homosexuals often facing persecution.