Cleric's remarks about singer condemned as sexist

Mullah Hallo (left) and Maria Hawrami (right) (Photo Credit: Twitter/@Rewaz_faiaq)

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SULAIMANI — Kurdish cleric Mullah Hallo caused an uproar this week when he made disparaging comments about singer Marya Hawrami, eliciting intense condemnation from the singer's family and on social media.

Hawrami released a music video on Monday (August 12) featuring her singing and dancing along with a crowd of people in the Sahollaka area of Sulaimani city, which is popular among young people for its nighttime sidewalk cafes.

In an audio recording on Tuesday, Mullah Hallo denounced the video, employing a sexist slur to describe Hawrami.

He continued by saying that “she was bouncing and jumping and those who were jumping around her were like monkeys. I swear, even prostitutes wouldn't do something like that.”

In an interview with NRT, Mullah Hallo defended himself and his message, while conceding that his words were inappropriate.

Hawrmani's brother Bestoon defended his sister's right to free expression in a statement on Wednesday and threatened legal action against the cleric.

“In order to prevent these types of wrong and unjust attacks that are attempted against artists, singers, and writers, we need the voice of the society, NGOs, artists, and everyone who supports the rights of freedom to stop this type of person from ruining our beautiful culture,” he said.

“We have decided to act on a legal basis and let the court redeem Marya's rights. That gentleman can explain himself in front of the court,” he added.

Singer and activist Dashni Morad lent her support to Hawrami in a post on Instagram.

“I am proud of my friend [Marya Hawrami] for releasing a new music video,” Morad said. “The mullah used shameful words against her.”

“I am proud of her family for standing up for the rights of their daughter, a women. We women can no longer stay silence and must take immediate action. Enough is enough, we are equal,” she added.

The Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Rewaz Fayaq weighed in on the controversy on Twitter.

“Freedom is a right that should be available to all,” Fayaq said.

“Religious leaders should be careful in what they say and every word they utter should be kind and help their listeners. Even if their words weren't kind, to admit a wrongdoing has its own beauty.”

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 11:13pm EBL.