BAGHDAD - Accusing them of promoting Satanism and homosexuality in Iraq, Shiite militias are launching a deadly campaign on young Iraqis wearing Western-style "emo" clothes and haircuts.
"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."
"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.
The term emo is usually used in the West to refer to youths who listen to rock music and wear alternative clothing.
In Iraq, however, it is associated with homosexuality that is totally prohibited in Islam as well as in all divine religions.
Media reports said dozens of Iraqi teenagers have been beaten or stoned to death in Baghdad and Sadr City for emo style.
But activists put at 58 the number of teenagers who have been beaten to death or shot in the last month, most of them men.
Earlier this week, leaflets were distributed in the Shiite Bayaa district in east Baghdad that had 24 names of youths.
We strongly warn you, to all the obscene males and females, if you will not leave this filthy work within four days the punishment of God will descend upon you at the hand of the Mujahideen," the leaflet said.
Another leaflet in Sadr City defined 20 names.
"We are the Brigades of Anger. We warn you, if you do not get back to sanity and the right path, you will be killed," it said.
Describing the emos as devil's worshippers, the interior ministry said it was monitoring "the 'emo' phenomenon that was spreading through schools, particularly among teenage girls.
After reports of the stoning circulated on Iraqi media, the interior ministry said this week that no murders on its files could be blamed on the reaction to "emo," saying recent murders could be attributed to "revenge, or social, criminal, political or cultural reasons".
Dialogue, Not Killing
Despite condemning the emos, Shiite religious scholars condemned reports about killing the youth.
Such a phenomenon which has spread among young people should be tackled through dialogue and peaceful means and not through physical liquidation," Abdul-Raheem al-Rikabi, Baghdad representative for Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, told Reuters.
Shiite 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 in a response to questions on his website on Saturday.
Abu Ali al-Rubaie, a leading Sadr aide in Sadr City, denied any relation to Sadr followers with the killings.
"In this issue and in all such problems we always use peaceful and educational methods to correct any wrongdoings, he said.
We are not connected in any way to those groups allegedly responsibility for killing those young people.
The killings reports prompted some Iraqis to change their Western-style clothes and hairstyle to avoid being marked as a target.
"I'm not the only one," teenager Kamel Saad told CNN on Monday.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.