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Iraq's sexual cleansing

  • 16 March 2012

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.

According to officials and human rights monitors, between 58–100 young men have been abducted, tortured, and beaten to death with cinder blocks since February.

Human rights groups have identified the leaders of the death squads as Badr and Sadr, the armed wings of the two major Shi'a parties that govern Iraq. Morality police and religious courts are complicit in the murders, despite homosexuality remaining legal in Iraq.

A statement issued by the Iraqi government reads:

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.

As a former strangely-dressed teenager, I can assure you it had nothing to do with Satanic pens and pencils.

Even more concerning is that in 2005, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani — one of the most influential leaders in post-conflict Iraq — issued a fatwa calling for the execution of homosexuals, giving divine ordinance to the mundane affair of a hate-crime.

Ali Hili, an activist representing Iraqi LGBT, said, 'What is happening today in Iraq is one of the most organised and systematic sexual cleansings in the history of the world.'

At least 16 of the murders have