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Iraqi 'emo's under threat amid brutal killings

11 march 2012, 15:55
Iraqi teenagers widely perceived to be gay are being brutally killed in Baghdad with Shiite militias distributing lists of targets warning of further assaults, AFP reports citing officials and human rights groups.

At least 15 teenagers, described as "emo"s for their tight-fitting black clothes and alternative hairstyles, have been stoned, beaten to death or shot dead in the past month, medics say.

Human rights groups say the toll is far higher amid accusations of a cover-up by security forces.

Witnesses in the conservative Shiite Muslim bastion of Sadr City in north Baghdad say a militia group calling itself the "Brigades of Anger" has posted leaflets naming 22 youths to be "punished".

Medical officials said at least 15 had already been killed in the past month, including seven who were stoned to death, five who were shot and one who was beaten to death.

"Police generally take care of all these incidents," said one of the officials, who declined to be named. "They don't like medics or ambulances to take them. Two days ago, the body of a teenager was found in Bayaa -- he was evacuated by police."

In Western youth culture, the term "emo" refers only to dress and musical preference and carries no connotation about a person's sexual orientation. In Iraq, however, the term is widely conflated with being gay, which remains taboo in the conservative Muslim country.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in New York, said a "new surge of anti-gay violence" since February had seen nearly 40 people kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

"There are no excuses for such heinous human rights violations," said Cary Alan Johnson, the organisation's executive director. "We demand that the Iraqi government put a stop to the wanton persecution and killing of gay people, and that the perpetrators be punished."

Iraq's interior ministry said in a March 8 statement that it had not recorded any anti-gay or anti-"emo" killings. It said the recent murders in the capital had been for "revenge, or social, criminal, political or cultural reasons."

In a February 13 statement that remains on its website, however, it described "emo"s as "devil-worshippers" and added that the ministry "has official approval to eliminate them as soon as possible."

In the statement, police Colonel Mustaq Talib Mohammedawi, described as chief of Baghdad's "social police", said his forces would enter the capital's schools as part of its efforts to target the "phenomenon".

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