Since 6 February there have been continuous reports of militia targeting youths which focus on attacks, kidnapping, torture and murder of ‘emo’ youth and individuals perceived as gay, lesbian or trans.It appears that attacks have been taking place in Baghdad as well as in several in southern provinces.
Emo, short for emotional or emocore is a US originated hardcore punk-rock music that appeared in the 80s attracting mostly teenagers. According to a report by a local LGBTQ activist the first murder occurred on 6 February in Sadr City district in Baghdad, the last was reported on 7 March of two female victims in their 20s from Shaab district of Baghdad.Moral panic has been stirred up by militias about emo youth for the last year, alleging they are adulterers, Satanists, vampires and sexually depraved.
An Iraqi source has testified said militias had warned emo youth and LGBT people that they would kill them a month ago. Posters containing the threats were put in cafés and on street corners in Baghdad.In Baghdad local media reported massacres of emo youth and LGBT people occurring in the districts of Sadr, Chaala, Albaladiat, Baghdad Al-Jadedah, Karadah and Kadhymia. The number of victims claimed ranges from 56 to 100.
An Iraqi LGBTQ activist reported an eyewitness account about a method used to murder victims by hitting their heads and body parts with concrete blocks repeatedly until death.Another method, reported by Iraqi media, involves pushing off the tops of high buildings.In addition five survivors were murdered inside hospitals according to a confidential witness, cited in the activist’s report.
According to the same LGBTQ activist, at least 45 victims had been killed (mostly gay men in Baghdad only) according to family members and medical staff in some hospitals.Local Iraqi media announced the total number of victims who were killed until the 7 March reached around 90 people.Al-Sharqiya TV reports 90 mostly young men and women were murdered:
The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders.An anonymous official in Sadr city’s municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered.
It has also emerged that some officials may actually be behind the killings.Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their ‘notorious effects’ on the community.
The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: ‘Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.’‘The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to “eradicate them”. I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,’ added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the massacres.
‘O’, a university student from Baghdad, explained that emo youth are wrongly perceived as gays who worship Satan and are also labeled “vampire groups” falsely believed to suck blood from each other’s wrists in their satanic gatherings.O stated: ‘There is no religion that would dictate the killing of those who look different. Even if we credit the ridiculous assumption that emos might be worshiping Satan, the Quran says “you have your religion and I have mine”. There are so many myths around them. They are being killed for being perceived as too feminine and gay.’
Bissam, an independent Iraqi LGBT activist and blogger, currently in exile said ‘we need to stop all these crimes against humanity. If the confession of the police colonel is true, then the state and its leadership are at least complicit in these massacres.
‘These Shiites fundamentalists interpret all differences as haram and satanic. Exterminating people associated guarantees a place in heaven. The murders are religiously justified even though they have no legal base in the country’s liberal constitution,’ adds Bissam.‘These young people were told they had four days to change their behavior into the path the righteous. But which one? On what basis do they identify right from wrong? Even if they cut their hair short, they would still look different.’ He asked rhetorically.
Safia Sohail, an independent deputy in the Iraqi Council of Representatives called ‘the Ministry of Interior and the two parliamentary committees for security and defense of human rights to move quickly to uncover the circumstances of the killing of the emo young people.’The deputy asserted that ‘nobody has the right to hold others accountable or set himself a substitute for the law’.Alakhbar.org, an Iraqi news website referred to the state of panic going viral among students and young people and the fear of being kidnapped, tortured and killed in cold blood because of the way they dress or comb their hair.