Friday, March 16, 2012

The effects of the spotlight

In Iraq, the youth are being targeted. Ellena Savage (Eureka Street) explains:

When I was in middle school, my taste for fashion was — to say the least — interesting. I would hack my hair into asymmetrical experiments, dye it impossible colours, and layer myself with kitsch garments found in northern suburbs op-shops. I would have liked to have been caught reading Camus in public, and for people to ask what made me such a complex personality.
In other words, I was another precocious teenager who wore her emerging individuality on the outside. I've toned down on the black nail polish, but I still cut my own hair (with varied results).
Right now in Iraq, teenagers just like I was are afraid for their lives. The media have dubbed the phenomenon 'Emo Deaths': young men who dress in emo fashion — skinny jeans, black t-shirts, piercings — are being targeted as homosexuals.

The Iraqi youths are simply expressing themselves as young people do around the world. But doing this in supposedly "free" Iraq can get you killed. Who's doing the targeting? Karlos Zurutuza (IPS) reports:

Ruby points directly to the Mehdi militia - a former insurgent group led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Such crimes are being committed in complete impunity, says Ruby.
"Ours is a militia-run government," complains this young man on the run. "The only possible solution is that Western governments put pressure on Iraq to end this nightmare."
Dalal Jumma from the Organisation of Women's Freedom In Iraq concurs, and complains about the lack of a "mandatory separation between state and religion.
"The militias’ letters hanging on the walls even accuse homosexuals or ‘emo’ followers of ‘Satanism for participating in the martyrdom of Imam Hussein’ – the Shia community leader killed in the Seventh century. How can we deal with such monstrosity?" says Jumma at the NGO’s headquarters in Karrada district in southeast Baghdad.
IPS has had access to one of the letters allegedly found in Sadr City – it had a list of 33 individuals classified under their residence block numbers.

In a sign of how much effect the world attention to these attacks are having, Moqtada al-Sadr has issued a statement. Alsumaria TV reports that he declared yesterday the targeting of Iraqi youths did not "please God" and he denounced the attacks. On Saturday, you may remember, he issued a statement calling them the scourge of the earth. What changed in the last five days? The level of attention the issue is receiving around the world.

Alsumaria TV also reports
that the Ministry of the Interior officially recognized the murders yesterday. Though various officials have talked about the murders, they have done so on background and the Ministry's official position has been that these attacks are not happening -- this despite their posting a statement to their website in February (only removed this week) calling for the elimination of the Iraqi Emo. Dan Levin (The Cutting Edge) observes:

Killings have been reported by other methods and in other cities as well. Since national authorities are not recording the incidents as a special category, the total is not known. In recent days, members of Shi'ite militias, mainly in the Sadr City district, have circulated lists of names of people targeted for killings. The threats refer to "obscene males and females," understood to refer to both gays and "emos," an American teenage subculture of distinctive hairstyles and black clothes that has spread to Iraq. Hurriya says he believes at least 200 men have been killed in recent years either for being gay or appearing effeminate. During an interview at the Reuters bureau in central Baghdad, he opens a satchel and brings out a series of photographs of bludgeoned corpses of young men found on the streets of Baghdad. He has been documenting the killings and running a safe house for gay men. "We, as the gay community, are connected like string," he says. "We know if anything bad has happened to any of us."
The apparent spread of the violence in recent weeks to heterosexual youth who dress in emo style has caused panic among young Iraqis. Emo, a once-obscure genre of American "emotional" punk rock, became a mainstream subculture in the West in the past decade. In Iraq, it appeals to young people -- male and female -- hungry for self-expression in a conservative, often violent culture. Young Iraqis who call themselves emos typically wear long or spiky hair, tight jeans, T-shirts, silver chains, and items with skull logos. In recent days they have been rushing to barbers to get their hair cut. Shops selling clothing and jewelry with skulls and band logos have quickly taken down their emo displays. Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated government may not be helping. The Interior Ministry last month released a statement that labeled the emo culture "Satanism." It said a special police force would stamp it out.

The following community sites -- plus World Can't Wait and -- updated last night and this morning:

The e-mail address for this site is