Monday, March 12, 2012

Emo killings: Reality or fabrication?

 ERBIL - Media reports of Shiite militia gangs in Baghdad killing young teenagers described as “emos” have been much debated by the Iraqi authorities and rights activists over the past couple of weeks. The Iraqi authorities continue to reject any killings in Baghdad on “emo” grounds while security and medical sources claim dozens have been killed, tortured, or attacked as a way of warning them.

Emo, in the West, refers to youths who listen to rock music and wear distinctive clothing. Fans are known for their distinctive dress, often including tight jeans, T-shirts with logos and distinctive long or spiky haircuts.

There are rumors about emos that make them easy targets for conservative and extremist gangs, like sucking each other’s blood or worshiping the devil. Being still largely a conservative society, such rumors have contributed to the gangs’ motivation for killing them.

Reports of emo killings emerged especially after the Iraqi Interior Minister drew attention to the subculture last month when he labeled it as “Satanism” and ordered a community police force to stamp it out.

Anonymous *Reuters* medical sources claim that at least 14 bodies have been brought to three hospitals in Baghdad with signs of having been beaten to death with rocks or bricks. Nine bodies were brought to hospitals in Sadr City, a Shi’ite neighborhood, three were
brought to East Baghdad’s main al-Kindi hospital and two were brought to the central morgue.

“First they throw concrete blocks at the boy's arms, then at his legs, then the final blow is to his head, and if he is not dead then, they start all over again,” one person who managed to escape told Egypt’s Al-Akhbar newspaper.
Iraqi activists said this picture belongs to a teenager who was brutally killed by religious police for having an “emo” hairstyle. (Courtesy of Al Tahreer News)
"Last week I signed the death certificates of three of those young people, and the reason for death I wrote in my own hand was severe skull fractures," a doctor at al-Kindi hospital told Reuters. "A very powerful blow to the head caused these fractures which totally smashed the skull of the victim."

There were reports that several others had been beaten and tortured as a way of warning them to abandon their emo ways or they would face the same destiny.

Militants groups have circulated two leaflets containing names of 24 and 20 emos respectively. They have been warned in one leaflet, which contains 24 names, to “leave this filthy work within four days or the punishment of God will descend upon you at the hand of the Mujahideen."

Another leaflet in Sadr City circulated in the name of the Brigades of Anger warns emos to “get back to sanity and the right path” or they “will be killed”. The list bears 20 names.
In this photo the two lists appear. The list on the left contains 24 names, the one one the right contains 20 names (courtesy of AL SUMARIA TV)
Following the reports of the killings, Iraq's Interior Ministry said no cases related to emo killings had been recorded. It said killings might be motivated by “revenge, social and common criminal reasons”.

Baghdad’s security committee also rejected the reports on Monday saying it was an “al-Qaeda propaganda” to spread fear ahead of the upcoming Arab League summit in the capital that is expected to be held on March 29.

Abdulkarim al-Tharb, head of the security committee, told AKnews that “After its failure to destabilize security, al-Qaeda is looking for alternatives [to do so] through spreading fear and goal is to affect the holding of the Arab summit in Baghdad."

The alleged killings have set off criticism from the Iraqi people and top Shiite religious leaders - who still disapprove of the emo subculture.

Abdul-Raheem al-Rikabi, Baghdad representative for Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq, called the killings "terrorist attacks".

Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s firebrand Shiite cleric, described "emo" youths as "crazy and fools", but said they should be dealt with only through the law.