This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, who wields great influence over national politics, said Friday he was “freezing” for a year his powerful movement over “sinful” practices among supporters.
Al-Sadr, a Muslim Shiite leader, has the ability to mobilise tens of thousands of his supporters with a single message and presents himself as an anti-corruption champion, often clashing with Iraq’s political leadership.
He has repeatedly taken supporters and opponents by surprise with major announcements on social media, such as a Twitter message last year on his “definitive retirement” from politics.
In a statement shared on the cleric’s official Twitter page on Friday, Al-Sadr said he had decided to “freeze the movement… for at least a year”.
Al-Sadr said in a tweet that his inability to achieve reforms within the Movement goes at odds with his promises to reform the Iraqi system.
The leader revealed that his party harbors “corrupt” and “unjust” individuals, whom he could no longer tolerate.
The convoy of YPG/PKK ringleader Ferhat Abdi Sahin, codenamed Mazloum Abdi, was targeted on April 7 by a drone strike near Sulaymaniyah International Airport. Three US personnel were in the convoy. The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) reported no injuries.
"On April 7, a convoy, including US personnel, was fired upon while in transit within the Iraqi Kurdistan region in the area near Sulaymaniyah," Ryder confirmed, adding that US forces are in Iraq and Syria in support of the "defeat ISIS mission."
"It struck more than 100 meters from the convoy and CENTCOM is currently investigating the incident," he added.
When asked what was the mission of the US personnel, he responded: "We're supporting the Iraqi security forces as part of the defeat ISIS mission. As you know, we have forces in Iraq. They're not conducting combat operations. They're advising and assisting the Iraqis. And then we have forces in Syria that are supporting the SDF."
The drone that attacked the convoy missed by slightly more than 100 yards, CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joseph Buccino said in a phone call Thursday.
"It didn't hit anything in the convoy," Buccino said.
Abdi is the leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group that the U.S. has allied with in the fight against ISIS.
Responsibility for the strike has been widely attributed to Turkey, although Ankara has denied these claims.
The attack and its aftermath highlight the complicated nature of American relations in the Middle East, where troops tasked with containing ISIS are partnering with Kurdish units seen as threats by NATO ally Turkey, while also defending against attacks from Iran and its proxy militias.
Why it matters: Flooding is a regular occurrence in Iraq and late March saw flooding throughout the country.
At the same time, Iraq is also experiencing desertification. The situation has worsened in recent years, and Iraq is often described as one of the most at-risk countries in the world to climate change. Iraq experiences relatively high water insecurity thanks to a lack of rainfall and poor water management.
The heavy rain has some potential benefits, despite the dangers. The water levels in eastern Iraq's al-Azim reservoir rose 30%, the Kurdish Iraqi news outlet Rudaw reported on Thursday.
When it comes to LGBTQ Americans, the Republican Party has traded its dog whistle in for a train whistle.
This week, for example, during a legislative hearing on a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to use a bathroom that doesn’t match the sex a person was assigned at birth, Florida state Rep. Webster Barnaby called transgender people “demons” and “mutants.”
“The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of your demons and all of your imps who come parade before us,” Barnaby thundered. “That’s right, I called you demons and imps, who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world.”
Barnaby quickly apologized. But his comments, like many political gaffes, told an unpleasant truth: that bigotry and open hostility underpin the GOP’s continuing assault on the rights of transgender and other LGBTQ people.
Indeed, Barnaby could take a lesson from Florida’s senior Republican senator, Marco Rubio, in how to use greater subtlety when being bigoted toward gay Americans.
On Wednesday, Rubio tweeted a short video by Lt. j.g. Audrey Knutson of the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Knutson, who identifies as nonbinary, spoke glowingly about their opportunity to read a poem at an LGBTQ spoken word night while stationed on an aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford. According to Knutson: “My grandfather served in the Navy in World War II. He was on board the USS Hornet. And he — it means a lot for me to be able to join the Navy, because he was a gay man in the Navy, and he had a really difficult service. So for me to join as nonbinary is really powerful to me and something that I’m certainly proud of.”
For most Americans, this would be an inspiring story of service to one’s country. If not for the fact Knutson is nonbinary, one could easily imagine Rubio, who has never served in the military, praising it.
But instead, Knutson’s experience worries Rubio. “While China prepares for war this is what they have our @USNavy focused on,” he tweeted.
In relying on the most juvenile of gay stereotypes, Rubio is suggesting that gay, trans or nonbinary service members are simply not tough enough to fight America’s wars, especially against a rising power like China. Writing poetry is for sensitive emo kids, not killers. (Maybe someone should buy Rubio a book by Siegfried Sassoon.)
It’s not every day you see a senator denigrating a member of the U.S. military, and it’s far from clear how an LGBTQ spoken word night undermines America’s ability to “prepare for war.” Indeed, one might argue that building camaraderie and acceptance in a diverse institution like the military is essential to enhancing unit cohesion. At a time when enlistment numbers in the military are in steep decline (the military missed its recruitment goals by 25% last year), welcoming all Americans — no matter their backgrounds or sexual orientations — seems more important than ever.
As over a dozen anti-trans bills are advancing in committees and legislative chambers in at least nine states including Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and South Carolina, other states are continuing to set the groundwork with policies to protect the trans community.
The Colorado bill also known as “Protections For Accessing Reproductive Health Care” aims to protect individuals including trans people’s access to reproductive health care services and facilities, and prohibit discrimination based on reproductive decisions; and require health care providers to offer unbiased information about reproductive health care options. Furthermore the bill would protect those traveling from states with restrictive reproductive health laws to access care.
Rep. Brianna Titone, an Arvada Democrat and the state General Assembly’s first out transgender member, calls the bill “imperative” to protect patients and medical professionals who provide health care to transgender people.
“As laws around the country seek to prevent this care outside their borders, we need a shield to provide these essential services. SB188 will do just that,” she tells me.
Erin Reed, a trans activist and journalist who testified in favor of the legislation in Colorado, spoke about how the law can help trans people and families in states such as Texas, Florida, and Tennessee where they are being targeted.
“One of the most common questions that I am asked by families, almost daily, is the question, ‘Am I safe? Where can I go? Is it time to leave?’ Colorado is often one of the places I point these families to.”
In an email, Meredith Gleitz, Policy Manager at One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, called the measure “critical” for transgender people to be able to fairly access what is often lifesaving health care.
“Research shows that gender-affirming care improves mental health and overall well-being for transgender people, and is recognized and endorsed by 29 leading medical organizations. In spite of its medical necessity and health benefits, access to gender-affirming care is being politically targeted, to the detriment of providers and patients - and attacks are intensifying,” she said.
“Colorado needs shield legislation to protect patients and providers from interstate political attacks and to prevent further obstacles to accessing critical health care."
While Colorado’s trans community celebrates the state's continued progress in the right direction, the community in Oregon is also praising HB2002, which seeks to create a universal health care system for all residents of the state. The law would establish a new system called “Oregon Health Care Program” and would require health care plans to cover transition-related care including hormone therapy and gender affirming surgeries.
The bill was shaped after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last June. In response, House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, formed a legislative workgroup last summer that worked for several months to develop HB2002.
“The right to access an abortion does not mean that abortion is accessible,” Rayfield said.
Last week transgender and gender nonconforming Oregon residents as well as allies gave testimonies during a hearing on the measure, including Dr. Christina Milano, a doctor who provides transgender care at Oregon Health & Science University.
“I hear a panic that we are opening up the gates, allowing young patients to come in and cajoling them and pressuring them to start pubertal suppression and pursue surgical procedures,” she said, noting that her team always works with a team of providers that includes endocrinologists and psychologists.
“Our teams work with exquisite caution and thoughtfulness.”
The state's Medicaid program, known as The Oregon Health Plan, as well as private insurance companies have all been required to provide coverage for medical care for transgender Oregonians since 2015. This law would expand the list of covered treatments.
Seth Johnstone, the Transgender Justice Program Manager at Basic Rights Oregon, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ individuals in the state, says the bill will help ensure trans and gender-expansive Oregon residents have access to life saving treatment and gender affirming care.
“This bill will advance the Oregon value that everyone should be free to be who they are, and that everyone should have affordable access to medical care. As over 300 anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year, we’re proud to see Oregon lawmakers not only protecting existing rights, but also working to expand access for our community,” he said.
“This landmark legislation will protect, strengthen, and expand equitable access to all forms of reproductive and gender-affirming care, and is based on recommendations developed by the Reproductive Health and Access to Care Work Group in December 2022.”
Johnstone states that Oregon has demonstrated clear values regarding healthcare, particularly with regards to reproductive and transgender-related care, and the recommendations made by Rep. Rayfield’s work group was “an affirmation and continuation of those values.”
“We believe every person in Oregon deserves access to high quality healthcare, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make.”
Similarly, Illinois and California have also demonstrated their commitment to protections for the trans community.
In January, Illinois, led by out State Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago, passed a bill to protect access to both reproductive healthcare and transgender healthcare. The bill, signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker, expands healthcare access and options in the state and protects healthcare providers and patients who travel to Illinois to access essential care now banned in their home states.
"This comprehensive legislation is proof that Illinois does not and will not stand by as hard-fought freedoms of the people of this state are taken away,” Cassidy stated.
“It is further proof that protecting reproductive rights and gender affirming healthcare is broadly supported, contrary to Republican-led efforts to strip away the protections we all rely on. By partnering with community stakeholders, organizations, and our government colleagues, we are setting the example for other states and their reproductive and healthcare policy in a post-Roe world."
New York’s Assembly Bill 709, sponsored by Democrat assembly member Nily Rozicis, is a proposed measure that seeks to improve the treatment of incarcerated individuals based on their gender. If passed, the law would require that individuals in state and local prisons who identify as a gender different from their assigned sex at birth be addressed and provided with items like clothes and toiletries that match their gender. The bill would also establish a presumption that these individuals should be placed in correctional facilities with others who share their self-attested gender identity, unless they choose otherwise. Overall, the law seeks to ensure that incarcerated individuals are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their gender.
Elsewhere, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed SB04 in the state which modifies a previous law from 1976 known as the The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, expanding protections to LGBTQ Michigan residents.
“No resident in Michigan should feel they have to hide their identity to ensure job security or successfully purchase a new home. This legislation protects individuals from harmful discrimination that has no place in our community,” said Michigan Senator Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp) in a release. “I’m proud to be a part of a diverse body of legislators that understand discrimination based on sexual orientation, identity, or expression is an issue that needs to be prioritized and swiftly addressed.”
As states continue to shape legislation to protect the trans and gender nonconforming community, Minnesota is gearing up to add further protections for those living with HIV with SF3062, a bill that will appropriate ten million dollars set aside from the government’s general funds to help support community-based HIV/AIDS support services.
The funds will be given to the commissioner of human resources who will then distribute it as grants to organizations that provide support services to people living with HIV or AIDS. The funding will be made available in the fiscal year 2024 and 2025.
The bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services committee.
With more than 480 anti-trans bills sweeping across the country, it’s crucial to remain vigilant about pro-trans legislation and ongoing efforts towards trans equality. While the fight for trans rights continues, it’s important to acknowledge states that are actively working to make a safe and inclusive home for trans and gender nonconforming people.