Killings Strike Fear Among Iraqi Gay and Emo Youths
The New York Times
Published: March 11, 2012
BAGHDAD — A recent spate of killings and intimidation aimed at gay Iraqis and teenagers who dress in brash Western fashions is sending waves of fear through Iraq’s secular circles while casting doubt on the government’s will to protect some of its most vulnerable citizens.
Many details of what Iraqi newspapers have called the “emo killings” are murky, but the uproar comes at an awkward moment for Iraq. The country has been preparing to showcase itself to the world as host of a high-profile meeting of Arab leaders in late March, the first major diplomatic event here since American forces withdrew in December.
But the news that young men in tight T-shirts and skinny jeans are being beaten to death with cement blocks and dumped in the streets has threatened to overshadow the new palm trees and fresh paint. The violence offers a reminder that the government has been unable to stop threats and attacks against small religious sects, ethnic groups and social pariahs like gay men.
An Interior Ministry security officer said that in the past two weeks, officials had found the bodies of six young men whose skulls had been crushed. Reuters reported the toll to be 14 or more, citing hospital and security officials, while rights groups say that more than 40 young men have been killed, but have provided no evidence for this figure.
Human rights advocates say the threats and violence are aimed at gay men and at teenagers who style themselves in a uniquely Iraqi collage of hipster, punk, emo and Goth fashions. The look, shorthanded here as “emo,” has flourished on Baghdad’s streets as an emblem of greater social freedom as society has begun to bloom after years of warfare. But it has drawn scorn and outrage from some religious conservatives, and is often conflated with being gay. Continue reading