Over ninety teenagers have been killed in recent months by Iraqi militias who consider them to be devil worshippers, human rights activists claim.
The young people are described as “Emos”, a term used in the West to refer to youths who listen to rock music and wear alternative clothing.
Reports say that up to 58 teenagers have been beaten to death or shot in the last month, most of them men.
Iraq’s interior ministry recently described Emos as devil worshippers.
In Iraq, the term Emo is also conflated with homosexuality, which although legal is socially and religiously taboo.
Militias in Baghdad’s conservative Shia neighborhood of Sadr City have distributed leaflets with the names of 20 young people they say should be punished.
In a statement on his website, Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr described Emo youths as “crazy and fools”, but said they should be dealt with within the law.
“They are a plague on Muslim society, and those responsible should eliminate them through legal means,” he said.
Mustafa, a young Iraqi, said he feels “threatened” when he wears black clothing.
“The Iraqi people look at you in a bad way,” he said.
“It is even worse when the Iraqi security for example arrest those in black or in the Emo groups.”
The interior ministry said it had not recorded any anti-gay or anti-emo killings, but said recent murders in Baghdad could be attributed to “revenge, or social, criminal, political or cultural reasons”.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in New York, told Agence France Presse that nearly 40 people have been kidnapped, tortured or killed in Iraq since February in a “new surge of anti-gay violence”.
What is “Emo”?
Described as both a cult and sect, its name derives from the word “emotional”.
Its teen followers dress in black, favoring tight jeans, T-shirts, studded belts and sneakers or skater shoes.
Hair is often dyed black and straightened, and worn in a long fringe brushed to one side of the face.
Music also plays a critical role, Emos like guitar-based rock with emotional lyrics – bands such as My Chemical Romance, Jimmy Eat World, and Dashboard Confessional are particular favorites.
They regard themselves as a cool, young sub-set of the Goths.
With the trend come accusations of self-harming and suicide – something its followers strongly deny.