Two gay men have been found dead in the Baghdad Shiite slum of Sadr City following condemnations of homosexuality by a leading local cleric. It has also emerged today that a further four were murdered in March.

The Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat has reportedly repeatedly been condemning homosexuality in Friday prayers.

Iraqi police said that the two men were killed on Thursday and that they believed the perpetrators were their family, shamed by their homosexuality. Associated Press report that the police believe this because no one have yet claimed their bodies or called for an investigation.

Last month, Iraqi police found four bodies buried near the slums with the words “pervert” and “puppies” on their chests. “Puppy” being used as derogatory word used to describe gay people in the region.

“When the Mahdi army was in control, such practices were banned, and homosexuals were afraid of declaring their tendencies,” an unnamed official told the Associated Press. But since the Mahdi Army cease fire a coffee shop has apparently become a hangout for gay men.

“Such people have brought shame on Sadr city people,” a colleague of Sattar al-Battat told the news agency. “The blame falls on the security forces who do little to combat this phenomenon or to stop the flow of pornography materials into Iraq.”

“Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, homophobia and the terrorisation of LGBT people has got much worse,” human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote on PinkNews.co.uk in February. “The western invasion of Iraq in 2003 ended the tyrannical Baathist dictatorship. But it also destroyed a secular state, created chaos and lawlessness and allowed the flourishing of religious fundamentalism. The result has been an Islamist-inspired homophobic terror campaign against LGBT Iraqis.”

“Queers are being shot dead in their homes, streets and workplaces,” he added. “Even suspected gay children are being murdered. They killers claim to be doing these assassinations at the behest of the ‘democratic’ Iraqi government, in order to eradicate what they see as immoral, un-Islamic behaviour.”