Youth in Iraq Stoned to Death for Dressing ‘Emo’

Liz De La Torre

Popular fads, new fashion, and quirky accessories seem harmless, right? Not so. In Iraq, this phenomenon is taking culture shock to a

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 7, 2012 file photo Iraqis who identify themselves as so-called Emos smoke a traditional "shisha" water pipe, as its smoke obscures their identity, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Advocates demanded a government investigation Friday, March 16, 2012 into the recent "Emo" killings of young Iraqis, many of whom are suspected of being gay, in what one lawmaker called a backlash by Islamic extremists against Western culture creeping into the country. As many as 58 so-called Emos _ identified by their Western clothing and hairstyles _ have been killed in Iraq over the last two months, according to local officials and security forces in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani, File)

whole new level. Any ‘emo’ style traits from skinny jeans to nose piercings to long or spiked hair will get teens as young as 15 stoned to death because it is accused of encouraging Satanism and homosexuality.

Iraq’s Moral Police has stated that the Ministry of Education allowed them to enter schools in Baghdad and find students who fit the description of ‘emo’: “The Emo phenomenon or devil worshipping is being followed by the Moral Police who have the approval to eliminate [the phenomenon] as soon as possible since it’s detrimentally affecting the society and becoming a danger. They wear strange, tight clothes that have pictures on them such as skulls and use stationary that are shaped as skulls. They also wear rings on their noses and tongues, and do other strange activities.” Over the past two months, at least 90 teens have been killed. That number is expected to rise with a recent death list distributed for those who do not change their sense of dress.

Popularized in the West, the ‘emo’ subculture is a term deriving from ‘emotional’ and, due to variations in meaning and negative associations and connotations, now typically serves to describe the stereotypical fashion and behavior of someone who wears tight jeans and long straightened or partially glossed up side-swept hair. Due to its distinct fashion and hair styles, the femininity observed in ‘emo’ males has caught the attention of Iraqi authorities whose victims include all males but two. To threaten youths who continue with their ‘emo’ appearance and listen to ‘emo’ music, many placards have circulated saying, “Your fate will be death if you don’t quit doing this” or “Punishment will be tougher and tougher, you gays. Don’t be like the people of Lot” or “God’s punishment will be come down upon you.”

However, some people, though fearful, maintain the ‘emo’ subculture is not about “emblems of the devil” but rather an expression of one’s own style. Agreeing with this, an unidentified young man told Iraq’s Al-Sharqiya television network: “I have long hair but that doesn’t mean I’m an Emo. I’m not less of a man if I have long hair. Let’s not say that if I have long hair, I’m a homosexual. I have long hair because this is my style; this is me.”

Now, with the Iraq Moral Police monitoring schools, students have been arrested for having Western-style haircuts or wearing American jeans. According to activists, the killings have gotten intense and are now being perpetrated by gangs and extremist religious groups who lure several teens to isolated areas, stone them to death, and then discard their bodies in dumpsters. Someone who managed to escape detailed the attacks: “First they throw concrete blocks at the boy’s arms, then at his legs, then the final blow is to his head. If he is not dead then, they start all over again.” Another method called double block stoning entails abducting teens and smashing their heads between two concrete blocks. Graphic pictures of victims have surfaced on Facebook and other social networking sites to appeal to the fear and panic of teens who adopt the same lifestyle. At present, the Iraq Interior Ministry insists that none of the killings are attributed to the backlash from the ‘emo’ subculture but instead blame “revenge, or social, criminal, political, or cultural reasons.”