Increased violence against gay youth in Iraq

An Emo having been attacked in IraqThe Associated Press is reporting that young people in Iraq who identify themselves as ‘Emos’ are being brutally killed at an increased rate following distributed hit lists of victims by militias. Secrutity firms say that they are unable to stop crimes that are percieved to be against the Irag subculture such as being gay.

Officials and human rights groups have estimated at least 58 Iraqis who are gay or believed to be gay have been targeted in the last six weeks alone with many fearing a return to the rampant hate crimes against homosexual people in 2009. Eyewitnesses report that they have seen victims bludgeoned to death by militiamen smashing in their skulls with heavy cement blocks.

A recent list distributed by militants in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City neighbourhood gives the names or nicknames of 33 people and their home addresses. At the top of the paper are a drawing of two handguns flanking a Quranic greeting that extolls God as merciful and compassionate.

Then follows a chilling warning.

“We warn in the strongest terms to every male and female debauchee,” the Shiite militia hit list says. “If you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahideen.”

All but one of the targets are men.

Like many places in the Muslim world, homosexuality is extremely taboo in Iraq. Anyone perceived to be gay is considered a fair target, and the perpetrators of the violence often go free. The militants likely behind the violence intimidate the local police and residents so there is even less incentive to investigate the crimes.

Emo is short for “emotional” and in the West generally identifies teens or young adults who listen to alternative music, dress in black, and have radical hairstyles. Emos are not necessarily gay, but they are sometimes stereotyped as such.

To Iraqis, “Emo” is widely synonymous with “gay.” John Drake, an Iraq specialist for the British-based AKE security consulting firm, said Iraqi Emos are getting their hair cut so they aren’t immediately identified, and therefore targeted, in the wake of the new threats.

The Qur’an specifically forbids homosexuality, and Islamic militias in Iraq long have targeted gays in what they term “honour killings” to preserve the religious idea that families should be led by a husband and a wife. Those who do not abide by this belief are issued death sentences by the militias, according to the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, a human rights watchdog group. The same militias target women who have extramarital affairs.

“There is a strong wave of campaigns by clerics against homosexuals now,” said Ali al-Hilli, chairman of Iraqi LGBT, a human rights group based in London that provides two safe houses in Iraq for gays. “The police do not provide protection for them.”

He said an estimated 750 gay Iraqis have been killed because of their sexual orientation since 2006.

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