Iraq: The next Shi’ite Islamic republic?

Recent targeting of Iraqis affiliated with "emo" subculture indicates growing fundamentalism.

Emo hipster punk 390 (photo credit: iStockphoto)
Emo hipster punk 390
(photo credit: iStockphoto)
As a conservative Muslim nation, Iraq is by and large opposed to Western ideals and movements deemed contrary or heretical to Islam. One Western export, the “emo” subculture, which is an American-born hardcore punk music movement, is almost synonymous with being gay in Iraq.
While the targeting of “emos” throughout the world and especially in Iraq is not new, the intensity and brazenness with which Iraqi Shiite militias are currently eliminating them is telling of a broader development: an increasing aspiration to violently enforce an autocratic and fundamentalist Shiite state in Iraq.
Over the past few weeks, a surge in brutal extra-judicial killings of Iraqi youth suspected of being affiliated with the “emo” subculture has shocked human rights groups around the world. The withdrawal of American troops in December and the support of the Shi’ite government in Baghdad have facilitated an upsurge in vigilante violence against the aforementioned subculture. The security vacuum left by America’s withdrawal has meant that religious fundamentalism is on the rise, creating  a climate of fear for anyone involved or affiliated with the suspected group.
The rate of “honor” killings has increased exponentially since the withdrawal. Media reports state that as many as 100 “emo” youths have been executed in the past two months alone. Even more troubling is the fact that many of those executions did not take place in remote villages, but were carried out in Baghdad.
Many of the killings are occurring in areas that are considered bastions of support for the Shi’ite-led central government, but the government claims that it is powerless to stop the executions since the identities of the perpetrators are unknown.
A large number of executions have taken place in Sadr City, a Shi’ite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad which is home to the influential Iranian-backed cleric and power-broker, Muqtata al-Sadr. Al-Sadr recently referred to “emos” as being “crazy” and “fools” and further stated that they were a “plague on Muslim society.” This followed an Interior Ministry statement last month which referred to the youths as satanic. The ministry ordered its social police to infiltrate Baghdad’s schools and root out the problem. The proximity of the statements to the increase in executions is clearly not inconsequential.
 While governmental and religious leaders profess their intent to solve the problem, they continue to absolve themselves from blame by trivializing the executions.. Shi’ite militias are openly posting notices and distributing leaflets containing the names of suspected homosexuals accompanied with threats that they will be targeted if they do not abandon their lifestyle. The mostly male victims are often pulled from streets or classrooms and then executed by the crushing of their skulls with cement blocks. Others still are either shot, thrown off buildings, killed in hospital beds, or tortured to death. The impossibly cruel nature of these killings is an attempt to use fear to stamp out Iraq’s controversial subculture.
Given Iraq’s sectarian makeup, threats to Shi’ite rule stem directly from Arab Sunnis - mainly radical Salafists and al-Qaeda, and indirectly from non-Islamic or Western movements that are perceived as having damaging influences on Iraqi society, such as the “emo” subculture.
For the country as a whole, the targeting of groups including: “emos” and other non-conformists; non-Muslims or Arabs, such as Kurds, Yazidis, Assyrians, Turkmen; and numerous Christian sects is indicative of a regional trend. 
The government is bent on maintaining and securing Iraq as a  Shi’ite state. As a result, the government is resorting to increasingly authoritarian measures.
Ruling over vast and violently divisive countries in the Middle East often triggers the use of brute force and autocratic governance. Moreover, Shi’ites are emphatically against allowing the hated Sunni minority to reclaim power in the aftermath of late dictator Saddam Hussein’s ouster and the withdrawal of American troops. Shi’ites are determined to create an Iran-esque state in order to affirm their domination over Iraq’s other groups.
The suppression of non-conformists and minorities are dismal signals which indicate Iraq's future as the Middle East’s new Shi’ite Islamic Republic.
The writer is an Intelligence Analyst with Max-Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm based in the Middle East.