At least a dozen young Iraqis have been stoned to death in recent weeks in an apparent campaign by Shiite Muslim religious extremists to punish youths sporting Western-style “emo” clothes and haircuts. Though the government is not directly implicated, the violence began after the Interior Ministry issued a statement branding the country’s growing “emo” subculture as subversive, and vowing to eliminate it.
- Who exactly is being targeted?
Human rights activists say the victims — including those killed, and others merely beaten as a warning — are young gay men, or teenagers who dress in the “emo” style. Emo — short for “emotional hardcore” — is a genre of music and an aesthetic that originated in the U.S. punk scene of the 1980s. In fashion terms, it typically translates to tight T-shirts, skinny jeans, and long side-swept black hair. In Iraq, the term is used more loosely to describe “a uniquely Iraqi collage of hipster, punk, emo, and goth fashions,” says Jack Healy in The New York Times. The look has grown in popularity as war faded and Iraqis began enjoying greater social freedoms.
- Why are these “emo” kids being singled out?
The stonings began after the Interior Ministry branded the “phenomenon of emo” as Satanic last month. The ministry said the rebellious fashion statements, which include dark clothes and skull-print T-shirts, are symbols of the devil, and it dispatched its Social Police to go into Baghdad schools to investigate “the emo” and “eliminate them.” Shiite extremists, who conflate emo style with being gay, which they forbid, began posting flyers warning the “emo” youth to “stop being gay, or face deadly consequences.” The flyers included a hit list with the names or nicknames of 33 people, along with their home addresses.
More on these brutal killings, which have young people living in fear