Monday, March 19, 2012

The Government’s Role In The Recent Anti-Emo Violence In Iraq

Media reports have recently been filled with stories of emo kids being targeted in Iraq. They have said that anywhere from a dozen to tens of people have been attacked or killed, but there are no agreed upon or official numbers. What human rights organizations have been able to discover however are that two Iraqi ministries were going to crackdown on what they thought were deviant, and un-Islamic youth movements in the country before this controversy broke in the news.

Beginning in August 2011, the Iraqi Interior and Education Ministries began talking about tackling the emo phenomenon within the country. On February 6, 2012, a police colonel gave an interview to the Iraqi News Network saying that the Interior Ministry was investigating the growth of emo youth in Baghdad. That was followed by an official statement by the Ministry on February 13, calling emos Satanists, who were a threat to society, which the Ministry was going to take care of. “Social police” were supposed to enter schools to combat the problem. That was followed by another announcement on February 29 that the Ministry was going to crackdown on the youth movement in Baghdad. Around the same time, Iraqi non-government organizations began noticing fliers being posted in three neighborhoods of the capital, Sadr City, Habibiya, and Amal warning people that they would face God’s punishment if they did not cut their hair, stop wearing Satanic clothing, hide their tattoos, and act like men. When the Iraqi media got wind of the story, they made the situation worse, by spreading rumors that some Iraqi kids were becoming Satanists, vampires, and breaking Islamic mores. On March 8, the Interior Ministry issued a press release saying that any reporting about attacks upon emos were fabrications, and warning anyone of spreading such rumors. Six days later, security forces detained reporters from Russia Today for three hours who were trying to film a story about the emo killings. All of these reports about the Interior Ministry came after the Education Ministry, back in August 2011, told schools to stop the spread of emo culture. Then on March 18, it issued a statement saying that it was going to ask schools to enforce a dress code to stop the spread of emo culture. This series of statements and actions obviously helped lay the basis for the current situation in the capital over alternative youth. Calling emos Satanists and other alarmist names could have given tactic approval for traditionalists and militants to go after them, and give them the feeling of impunity since the authorities had condemned the kids.

The new Iraq is full of contradictions. On the one hand, it has allowed space for kids to listen to Western music, and dress in new styles, because families now have the internet, are exposed to a plethora of media outlets, and have access to satellites and new televisions, which were limited in the past, because of international sanctions. At the same time, various Islamist groups have taken power, and their followers in the government and security forces have tried to crackdown on what they consider un-religious youth groups. Since the Interior Ministry has condemned emos, they cannot look to the authorities for help in this situation. They will likely have to go underground until the tide turns, and the situation is not so inflamed, so that they can once again dress how they like.


Amnesty International, “Iraqi authorities should ‘unequivocally condemn’ emo attacks,” 3/16/12

Associated Press, “Violent ‘Emo Killings’ Rattle Iraqi Youth,” 3/11/12

Big Pond, “Iraqi ‘emos’ target of brutal killings,” 3/12/12

Fordham, Alice, “Iraqi youth panicked by reports of killings,” Washington Post, 3/11/12

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Investigate ‘Emo’ Attacks,” 3/16/12

Littauer, Dan, “Iraqi government complicit with EMO and LGBT massacres,” Gay Middle East, 3/10/12

Al-Shummari, Yazn, “Education ministry requires students to wear uniform in schools because of “emo” culture,” AK News, 3/18/12

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