In a statement released by Mr. Muqtada Al-Sadr; a religious leader with great following in Iraq and a huge political and social influence, especially after the start of the protests of February 2016. He answers questions asked by a civilian who is concerned for the increase in “excessive beauty” of guys in the society who take care of their hairstyles, trends, and “suspicious” relationships between individuals of the same sex, He also says “It’s reaching an extend where they are trying to be like women”, and asks for Muqtada Al-Sadr’s advice to combat this “dangerous virus that is used by invaders against Muslims” as he describes it.
Muqtada Al-Sadr answers that homosexuality is a psychological illness and mental instability that makes men want to look like women, and that it’s forbidden in all kinds, and that they should be isolated socially, but he also states that there shouldn’t not be violations and abuse against those individuals, and that they should be shown the “right” way in an acceptable way.
Now despite the fact that Al-Sadr’s statements shows the extend of the lack of knowledge about sexuality, and still considering homosexuality as a mental illness, and how it shows that the difference between gender identity and sexual orientations are still unclear in Iraq, this statement still shows a huge progress from the time when he led Mahdy Army since early 2000s until a few years ago, and was directly responsible for many of the killings campaigns that were organised against the LGBT+ individuals and those who are perceived to have different sexual orientations.
Aside from the fact that it proves the knowledge of local leaders of the violations against LGBT+ individuals on the contrary to what others leaders claim; This statement also represents a historical milestone for the LGBT+ community which has been living in fear and facing violations for more than a decade. It is the first time that a leading religious leader in Iraq condemns violence against LGBT+ individuals. A step that has received a lot of praise from international leaders and organizations.
But at the same time; it is important for Al-Sadr, the local government, and the international community to follow up on this statement, and to combine it with actions that actively protect the LGBT+ community, especially after the Iraqi government’s attempt to criminalise homosexuality in their fifth periodic report that they submitted to the UN in 2015, where they specifically say that “Homosexuality is a sinful act, and therefore its punished by the law” despite the fact that the constitution doesn’t criminalise homosexuality.
It is also important to monitor the situation on the ground, and to investigate the rumours that state that killings campaigns are still happening in 2016 but in a more discrete manner, few of which have been proven to be true.
We at IraQueer want to congratulate Mr. Al-Sadr for taking a very important step towards achieving equality and promoting human rights, and want to offer him and other groups willing to work on these questions our full support.