Iraq has seen an increase in homophobic killings since the U.S. invasion, the BBC reported April 17.
Frightened gay people told the network the murders are connected to the growing influence of anti-gay religious figures and the increasing lawlessness of militias.
Seyed Kashmiri, a spokesman for Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, suggested some of the killings are appropriate.
'Homosexuals and lesbians are not killed for practicing their inclinations for the first time,' he said. 'There are certain conditions drawn out by jurists before this punishment can be implemented, which is perhaps similar to the punishment meted out by other heavenly religions.'
Deputy Interior Minister Major Gen. Hussein Kamal told the BBC that 'vigilante action' is not condoned. 'We encourage the victims to inform the authorities if they are subjected to any attacks,' he said.
However, the Interior Ministry is run by members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite party, and gays say the council's Badr Brigades militia is among those attacking them.
'Saddam was a tyrant, but at least we had more freedom then,' one Iraqi gay man told the network. 'Nowadays, gay men are just killed for no reason.'