News reports have emerged from Iraq that teenagers who have adopted the ‘emo’ style for their appearances are being stoned to death in what appears to be a crusade by Shia militants. The exact figures are not known, but it is believed that nearly 100 youngsters have been brutally murdered, just because of their appearance.
Certain Iraqi activists believe that Iraq’s interior ministry are complicit in these killings, after they recently highlighted the emergence of this ‘ subculture’ stating that it was ‘Satanism’ and instructed the community police to eradicate it. It forms part of the Iraqi government’s current crackdown on members of the public, especially youngsters who are adopting ‘western appearances’.
A statement by Iraqi’s Moral Police on the Interior Ministry’s website reveals just how strongly they feel about this trend amongst the nation’s youth.
Excerpts from this statement that were included in The Daily Mail article about the killings, they are as follows:
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.
Whilst the Interior Ministry clearly do not approve of the ‘emo’ culture, they do not want to appear like they have sanctioned the brutal murder of these youngsters and released a statement cautioning extremists not to interfere with the ‘public freedom’ of Iraqis.
Well-known Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was quick to speak out about the brutal killings, describing the incidents as ‘an act of terrorism.’
In the last few weeks, 14 youths have been brutally murdered in the capital Baghdad, and militants in Shia neighbourhoods have been circulating lists which contain the names of other youngsters that dress in this way, who will be targeted if they do not alter their appearances.
‘Emo’ which stands for emotional, is considered one of the sub-cultures of ‘goth’. ‘Emo’s usually wear skinny jeans, opting mostly for dark colours, dye their hair black, and have it either long or short and spiky – often brushed towards one side of their faces. Skeletons and skull and crossbones images are often on their clothing, and ‘emo’s’ usually listen to indie, rock and punk bands like My Chemical Romance or Jimmy Eat World.
Cairo based website al-Akhbar reported about the killings after being given information from activists who claimed that groups of armed men from some of Iraq’s most extreme religious groups led these tragic teens to isolated areas where they would throw stones and rocks at them until they died. Their bodies would then be disposed of at garbage dumpsites.
The news of these events has left me shocked and appalled, I think it is horrific that people feel like they have to right to condemn someone to death just because of the way they dress or style their hair.
It reminded me of the brutal murder of Sophie Lancaster in the UK in 2007, who whilst walking home with her boyfriend was viciously set upon by a gang of thugs who did not like the couple’s alternative/gothic appearance.
They initially started beating him up, and stamping on him as he lay on the ground, but turned on her when she tried to intervene, attempting to shield his broken body with her own. The thugs stamped on her face and head so many times and did so much damage, that paramedics called to the scene could not tell if the beautiful young woman was actually male or female.
Sophie’s boyfriend, Robert Maltby, was so badly beaten that he suffered bleeding on the brain and was in a coma after the attack. Though he gradually recovered, he has been left with lasting brain damage as a result.
Whereas in this case, it was not religious reasoning that sparked the terrible attack that cost Sophie her life, it all boils down to same principle; the fact that certain people in society feel they have the right to impose their will on others.
It’s bad enough when religious extremists or bullies pick on or isolate people because of their appearance, but to MURDER them, it’s just too much, and I don’t know how the perpetrators of these crimes can justify it to themselves.
People should be free to dress and behave as they choose, without having to live each day in fear of their lives.
Have you ever been bullied or targeted because of your appearance?
What did you do about it? Have you changed your appearance just to stop yourself being victimised or did you stand up to the people singling you out? What do you think should be done about the killings in Iraq? Leave a comment and let us know how you feel!