This report in AL Monitor – Pulse of the Middle East:
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has praised Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for publicly advocating a humanitarian stance toward the LGBT community, saying they should not be subjected to violence. Last month, Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, said, “His statement represents an important change in the right direction and should be followed by concrete actions to protect LGBT people from violence.”
In a rare, unexpected statement on July 7 about the LGBT community, the leader of the Sadrist movement declared, “[You] must disassociate from them and provide them advice [but] not attack them.” His comment was in response to a letter by a Sadrist supporter who complained about men “acting like women” and “suspicious relations between people of the same gender,” referring to homosexual relationships.
HRW has documented “serious abuses” by various Iraqi groups, including Sadrists, against LGBT people, who have become a social community in the country. The human rights organization said, “We hope this [new stance by Sadr] will change behavior in successors to the Mahdi Army and other ranks and spur the government to hold accountable those who commit these crimes.”
The issue has grabbed the attention of Iraqi and Arab media. Sadr’s statement has generated controversy because it contrasts with the positions of other clerics and religious institutions, namely, other Shiite scholars in Iraq as well as in Iran. While clerics in both states preach that Islam forbids homosexuality, the difference lies in the way to address it.