A young man dressed in skinny jeans, with a longer haircut is a pretty common sight in most major cities in the US and Europe. In Iraq, however, it’s enough to get someone killed.
CNN reports on a small, but culturally significant trend in Iraq. Young men who wear longer hair, dark, fitted clothes with skull iconography and symbols viewed as Western, have been labeled by the Iraqi Interior Ministry as Satanic, with threats of “moral police” to stamp out the trend. Referred to as “emo,” the style is associated with gay men, though many of the teens and young men who embrace the style are not gay.
Though the concept of fashion police is usually a laughing matter, an unnamed Interior Ministry official confirmed that 14 young men in Baghdad had been murdered for dressing in emo style over the past few weeks, and human rights activists put the number at more 100 since February.
Teenager Kamel Saad told CNN he cut his hair so as not to become a potential target.
“I’m not the only one. All my friends in the school decided to change their hair style and change their clothes, too, even though we’re not emo or gay,” he said.
Saad said a group of men, who identified themselves as community police, entered his classroom two weeks ago and asked students to tell them about other students’ suspicious behavior.
“I thought it was about terrorism, but later, when the police explained more, we realized that they were talking about emo,” he said.
Though a number of leaders, including a senior Islamic cleric in Iraq, have denounced the murders, most of the young men CNN spoke with have shaved their goatees, cut their hair and decided to modify their appearance to avoid being targeted.