Teenaged gays in Iraq are being beaten to death with cement blocks in an effort to eradicate a new undercurrent in Iraqi culture. The “emo,” or “emotional,” movement in Iraq is being blamed, at least in part, on the influence of the West, including America, since the ill-fated pre-emptive strikes on Iraq and Baghdad that began in 2003. The battering with weighty blocks is being advanced by religiously conservative Iraqis, who oppose any homosexual culture in much the same way they oppose women who have sex outside of marriage.
Shiite clerics and leaders term the bludgeoning “honor killing;” the Shiites believe a family should be led by a husband and his wife. In the Muslim world, the gay male is a fair target; only one murder by cement blocks of a female has been reported. The murderers of the emos in most cases go unpunished. In some areas students are forbidden to leave their schools; forbidden outside presence. Clerics fear they may practice “dirty” activities. The emos are considered worshippers of the devil.
The teenaged under-culture calls itself emo. in Europe, America, and the West, homosexuality is an important emo option. In Iraq, emo always means gay. Emo music derived from punk rock, and is often characterized by confession-pop lyrics. Examples of emo lyrics include: “I didn’t want to admit it; it was easier to lie, and hide the hurt and emptiness, to smile instead of cry.” And, “I lock away the pain put away the fears; show you only smiles, not the hidden tears.” Or, “The only reason I won’t let go of what is making me sad is because it was the only thing that made me happy.”
The young, fast-paced emo crowd meets in cafés and coffee houses, wears radical hairstyles, and in many instances prefers black clothing. Religious police are killing these Iraqi teenagers for their long hairstyles, piercings, and for their lifestyle. The emo young tell us their appearance expresses their developing emotions, and their view of life.
Over the weekend, Al Sumaria News TV reported that cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr declared the emos are “fools” and “experts must finish them.” The Al Akhbar newspaper, based in Egypt, claims that the Iraqi interior ministry gave permission to religious or moral police to go after emo youth. The Shiite militia has announced, “We warn in the strongest terms to every male and female debauchee; if you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahedeen.” Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, called the emos “Crazy fools; a lesion on the Muslim community.” While stopping short of condoning the violence, he calls upon his followers to end the rise of the emos in a legal way.
One Kurdish lawmaker, Khalid Shwani, referred to the targeting as “A growing intolerance of Iraqis’ civil rights.” Shwani has said, “Those people are free to choose what they wear, or to believe in, or how they choose their clothes or the way they think.”
It is estimated that in the past five or six years about 750 gay Iraqis have been killed in this way; about 40 in recent weeks, in what is now a growing anti-emo movement.