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Opinion
Bobby Ghosh

Moqtada al-Sadr Is Courting Irrelevance in Iraq

His decision to abandon Iraq’s protesters and court Iran has backfired.

That was then. 

That was then. 

Photographer: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Four years ago, when Moqtada al-Sadr called for an end to violence against Iraq’s LGBT community, the Shiite cleric-politician had seemed a step ahead of his followers. In reverting to homophobic form this week, speculating that the coronavirus pandemic was the result of same-sex marriage, he is demonstrating how far behind he has fallen.

Like most countries in the Middle East, Iraq is inhospitable to homosexuals. But few places in the country were as hostile as the giant Baghdad slum that bears Sadr’s surname and is his political stronghold: In Sadr City, clerics loyal to him gave viciously anti-gay sermons, and his Mahdi Army routinely hunted down and murdered homosexuals.