Rights groups slam targeting of Iraqi "emo" teenagers

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A gay activist known by his pseudonym Roby Hurriya shows pictures of his friend Saif Asmar before and after Asmar was killed during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad 12 March 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Saad Shalash)

Published Friday, March 16, 2012

Leading human rights organizations have condemned the targeting of Iraqi teenagers for dressing in "emo" styles, after an inflammatory interior ministry statement in February dubbed it "devil worshiping."

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the murders.

"The government of Iraq should immediately investigate and bring to justice those responsible for a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraqi youth seen as belonging to the non-conformist "emo" subculture," it said.

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior last month released a statement that characterized "emo" culture as "satanist," adding that it would "eliminate" the trend.

Al-Akhbar reported, citing local reports, that between 90 and 100 Iraqi teenagers were said to have been stoned to death by religious extremists because of their dress code.

Iraq's interior ministry issued a follow-up statement denying the report as media fabrication, stating that the murders were unrelated to the "emo phenomenon" the ministry originally pledged to "eliminate."

Human Rights Watch was, however, scathing of the interior ministry, and urged the Iraqi government to investigate the killings instead of worrying about media reports.

"The government has contributed to an atmosphere of fear and panic fostered by acts of violence against emos,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"Instead of claiming that the accounts are fabricated, Iraqi authorities need to set up a transparent and independent inquiry to address the crisis," he added.

Salam Abdulmunem, UNICEF's spokesperson in Iraq, told Al-Akhbar the UN agency was investigating the alleged killings, but was unable to put an exact figure on the death toll.

"We're trying to actually confirm how many were killed because the reports are very unclear and the numbers are so different. We don't actually have a number to confirm," he said.

"Still obviously, the allegation of killings and the documented threats are a huge concern," he said.

Abdulmunem criticized the circulation of photos on social media of dead Iraqi teenagers, saying it added to the climate of fear.

“The images create an atmosphere of fear among the youth, and that is not acceptable,” he added.

A 26-year old man from Mosul cited in the joint statement said that unknown assailants killed two members of his heavy metal band on March 8 because of their appearance. 

"We don’t know who is behind this now, but for a long time, people have been accusing us of being Satanists. So this is not new, but now it has become murderous," he said.

While it is unclear who is behind the attacks and intimidation, Iraqi media reports have also fueled the campaign by characterizing "emos" as un-Islamic, the statement from the rights groups said.

On March 10, senior Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called emos "crazy fools" and a "lesion on the Muslim community" in an online statement, but also maintained that they should be dealt with "within the law."

But the rights groups welcomed as "a positive development" the condemnation of the killings by another prominent Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who branded the attacks as "acts of terrorism."

The killings have also led to a crackdown on media reporting in the capital, with media being prevented from covering the issue.

Earlier this week a crew of journalists from Russia Today were arrested while trying to report about the killings.

The crew had obtained official approval to work and film in Baghdad, but were still detained and told that filming in the capital was prohibited.

The television network released a statement, saying: "The security forces approached the crew members while they were preparing a report on the abuse of the emo youth in Iraq by Muslim extremists, and asked the crew to stop filming."

"The crew were held in the police station for three hours and their footage was confiscated. They were released after being warned that filming in the center of the Iraqi capital is prohibited."



Absolutely tragic that Saif Asmar was murdered by medieval minded people, backed by a fictitious democratic, corrupt in every sense, govern't. As an (Arab) parent of young kids I would never stop them from developing a personal style or interfer in their sexual orientation. Let our young people live.. what a tragic waste of a young, promising life that Saif Asmar had.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The U.S.A does not care about secularism or human rights. They support the Saudi and Bahraini monarch. Iraq and South Yemen were the most secular Arab states. Now, they belong to clerics and terrorist.

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