BAGHDAD: At least 14 youths have been stoned to death in Baghdad in the past three weeks in what appears to be a campaign by Shi'ite militants against youths wearing Western-style 'emo' clothes and haircuts, security and hospital sources say.
Militants in Shi'ite neighbourhoods where the stonings have taken place circulated lists on Saturday naming more youths targeted to be killed if they do not change the way they dress.
The killings have taken place since Iraq's interior ministry drew attention to the 'emo' subculture last month, labelling it 'Satanism' and ordering a community police force to stamp it out.
'Emo' is a form of punk music developed in the United States. Fans are known for their distinctive dress, often including tight jeans, T-shirts with logos and distinctive long or spiky haircuts. At least 14 bodies of youths have been brought to three hospitals in eastern Baghdad bearing signs of having been beaten to death with rocks or bricks, security and hospital sources told Reuters under condition they not be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Nine bodies were brought to hospitals in Sadr City, a vast, poor Shi'ite neighourhood, three were brought to East Baghdad's main al-Kindi hospital and two were brought to the central morgue, medical sources said.
Six other young people, including two girls, were wounded in beatings intended as warnings, the security sources said.
"Last week, I signed the death certificates of three of those young people, and the reason for death, I wrote in my own hand was severe skull fractures," a doctor at al-Kindi hospital told Reuters."A very powerful blow to the head caused these fractures which totally smashed the skull of the victim."
A leaflet distributed in the Shi'ite Bayaa district of east Baghdad seen by Reuters on Saturday had 24 names of youths targeted for killing.
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"They wear tight clothes that bear paintings of skulls, they use school implements with skulls and wear rings in their noses and tongues as well as other weird appearances," it said.
After reports of the stonings circulated on Iraqi media, the interior ministry said this week that no murders on its files could be blamed on the reaction to 'emo'. "Many media houses have reported fabricated news reports about the so-called 'emo' phenomenon - stories about tens of young people killed in various ways, including stoning," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. "No murder case has been recorded with the interior ministry on so-called 'emo' grounds. All cases of murder recorded were for revenge, social and common criminal reasons."
Iraq's leading Shi'ite clerics have condemned the stonings. Abdul-Raheem al-Rikabi, Baghdad representative for Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, called the killings "terrorist attacks".
"Such a phenonomenon which has spread among young people should be tackled through dialogue and peaceful means and not through physical liquidation," Rikabi told Reuters. (Reuters)