Saturday, March 17, 2012

Iraq: Investigate ‘Emo’ Attacks

Official Impunity Enables Violent Intimidation Campaign

Human Rights Watch
March 16, 2012

"(Beirut) - 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, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said today. The attacks have created an atmosphere of terror among those who see themselves as potential victims.

On March 8, 2012, the Interior Ministry, in an official statement, dismissed reports by local activists and media of a campaign against those seen as emo. The ministry said the reports were “fabricated” and “groundless,” and that it would take action against people who were trying “to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion.” An official ministry statement, on February 13, that characterized emo culture as “Satanist” cast doubt on the government’s willingness to protect vulnerable youth, the international rights groups said.

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.”

The campaign’s victims appear to represent a cross-section of people seen locally as non-conformists. They include people suspected of homosexual conduct, but also people with distinctive hairstyles, clothes, or musical taste. In English, “emo” is short for “emotional,” referring to self-identified teens and young adults who listen to alternative rock music, often dress in black, close-fitting clothes, and cut their hair in unconventional ways. People perceived to be gay, lesbian, transgender, or effeminate are particularly vulnerable.

Iraqi human rights activists told the three organizations that in early February, signs and fliers appeared in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Sadr City, al-Hababiya, and Hay al-‘Amal that threatened people by name with “the wrath of god” unless they cropped their hair short, gave up wearing so-called “satanic clothing” – styles critics associate with emos, metal music, and rap – hide their tattoos, and “maintain complete manhood.” Other names appeared on similar posters in different neighborhoods.

One such sign, seen by the international rights groups, was posted on a wall in Sadr City, and read, “In the name of God the compassionate, the merciful, we warn every male and female in the strongest terms to stop their dirty deeds in four days before the wrath of God strikes them through the hands of mujahedin.” This poster listed 33 names and was decorated with images of two handguns......"

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