VC members were horrified last week by the news of the Iraqi massacres in which Islamist terror-militia abducted teenagers from schools and from the streets and brutally killed them. Pictures of several victims were circulated on the web over the weekend. An estimated 117 teenagers were reportedly marked for death specifically because they dressed in Western-inspired styles, wore non-traditional haircuts, or were identified as being gay. For some time before the massacres, Iraqi religious leaders and even the Ministry of the Interior are supposed to have released official documents, accusing those who identify as “Emo” of “sedition”, “witchcraft” and “satanism”. Of particular interest to our community however, is the specific accusation levelled against the victims, of being “vampires”. Were they really?
While numerous apparently official (and quite serious) references to “vampires” and “blood-drinking” have been made by Iraqi officials and clerics in recent times, the truth of these accusations as applied to the victims of this senseless slaughter is being disputed within the international community. It seems generally to be considered more likely that these references (like the accusations of “witchcraft” and “satanism”) are entirely based on assumptions made while religious leaders were looking for ways to scapegoat and demonize a cultural minority group – or to expand the scope and refocus interest in their cause – rather than serious references to actual Vampyres or a VC in that country.
Nevertheless, in Iraq, death lists were circulated, bearing the names of mostly children and youth identified earlier by Islamist terror-groups, with warnings to abandon their “evil ways” immediately, or face death. “Al Mada reports that lists specifically of youth who are believed to be Emo have been posted on walls in Sadr City as well as the Shula and Kādhimayn neighborhoods — all heavily Shi’ite districts — with threats to kill them. An anonymous official in the Sadr City municipal court told the newspaper that killers have the names of the names of young people who are Emo stored on their cellphones, to help “liquidate” them.”
Even videos released by Islamist groups on YouTube make it appear as though there is a concrete three-way connection between vampirism, “satanism” and homosexuality, and “Emo” culture is portrayed in these videos as embodying these aspects as well as being threatening, horrifying and aimed at inciting rebellion against religious supremacy in that country.
The first video listed here was released in November 2011, and the second from the Media Center For The High Islamic Board Presidency, on February 26, 2012. Several of the images in the first video are meant to connect “Emo” culture to vampirism and possibly to the Vampyre subculture. It is a well known fact that plenty of images of the real VC in places such as the USA where fewer restrictions on freedom of personal expression exist, are to be found on the internet. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that it is easy to splice together a sequence of unrelated images – say a vampire gathering, some Emo artwork, a few images of blood here and there, and some shots of people who indulge in body-modification, and to claim it represents what “Emo” sub-culture is all about. It doesn’t make it true. As is typical in propaganda designed to incite hatred based on any kind of characteristics and used to facilitate, justify and commission genocide – information is distorted, truths twisted, or facts simply made up. This is especially true when examining material in this case and comparing it to propaganda employed by human-rights abusing regimes from any era in history.
It is hard to ignore the similarities on paper, between this atrocity and the witch hunts and cases of vampire hysteria in history – and even the present. While traditional myth and fiction from all over the world portrays the undead vampire myth and vampirism as a danger to life, and would have us believe that priests and religious zealots should be hunting the undead and staking them, the reality we know as modern Vampyres is completely different. As local activists against witch hunts in South Africa say: “Accusation is not proof!” and yet, there have been at least 173 victims of witch hunts worldwide since January 1, 2012 alone. Notable also is the fact that all these murders have been carried out without any proof to back up their accusations.
Real living Vampyres are not the undead killers fiction portrays, and indeed, we are generally law-abiding people who can and do make immensely positive contributions to the societies we live in. The assumptions made by the makers of these videos, and perpetuated in these works of pure propaganda and incitement to fear and hatred, are just so off the map as to be on a different planet altogether.
On the surface, many people can be forgiven for thinking news of this tragedy is a “hoax” because, look – the arabs are off hunting vampires, and making actual reference to vampires in official documentation! Ok then, sounds too crazy to be true. But it’s not a hoax, not a joke. They have been brutally murdering kids for being kids – and they have been killing people for things that shouldn’t matter for years – and human rights violations shoudn’t be viewed as funny.
It is a standing view of human rights activists that nobody should die this way, least of all children, and least of all for the reasons used to justify this carnage.
It is quite clear to see where the cultural misunderstanding comes in. Most people in Iraq (or the Middle East) criticizing the subculture in this way, have a very basic, literral understanding of the world around them, including their culture, their own religion, and therefore it’s understandable why they believe the complete fabrication presented in these videos and spoon-fed to the slumbering, subservient and ignorant masses in Arab society. Homophobia also undeniably plays a significant role in this matter.
According Iraqi’s living outside the country, the term ”Emo” in Iraq refers to gay people. “It is used by militias to refer to gay people. it’s no matter if you were a truly EMO or not, if they identify you a homosexual they will call you an EMO and of course will smash your head by a cement block.” Thus, it seems if you look or dress in the “Emo” style, you are considered to be gay – or if you are gay or an effeminate male or masculine female – or transgender – you are labelled “Emo”.
Showing such ignorant and easily-led people and fervent religionists material such as in these videos would be tantamount to dropping a match into a lake of kerosene. Fear and panic would inflame them, and motivate a negative reaction. The West, and in particular American culture, has been demonized and derogated in the Middle East for politcal reasons for a long time already – and this form of visual propaganda, coupled with a message repeated over and over again by religious leaders, inciting fear, paranoia, intolerance and hatred over the past several years, has together formed a powder-keg which could be set off at a moment’s notice.
Self-expression in such ultra-conservative societies, burdened by an over-abundance of religious extremism and fanatics – and an apparent lack of appreciation for the value of human life – is a risk that could easily cost someone their life. It appears that in this case, all it took was one little push to turn individual style into “dangerous threats to Islam” and self-expression into a new scapegoat – and a death-sentence for 117 kids. Warnings of more murders, and new death lists have been circulated – and who knows how many more innocents will die in the weeks to come?
It is fairly obvious that those pushing these massacres forward have created the impression that the “Emo” subculture is the embodiment of sexual perversion, religious heresy and abomination, encompassing everything from homosexuality, transgender, other religions, “witchcraft” and “satanism” – which according to them, must be “eradicated”. The abduction, torture and murder of gay people in Iraq is not a new thing, and has been reported on internationally since as long ago as 2005 – but this event marks a turn in events, something which indicates a rise in intolerance for ANY diversity or independent thought or dissenting behavior – or secularism – in Iraqi culture.
Police units assigned to protect minorities against such attacks since the increase in anti-LGBT violence, have inidcated their powerlessness to stop them, or to intervene. Amid accusations that the government of Iraq is directly complicit, anyone on the receiving end of this brutality seems completely defenseless. ”Iraqi police squads who are specifically assigned to protect social minorities say they are almost powerless to stop the threats against gays and Emos. One officer assigned to the so-called social abuse squads said police are meeting with clerics to ask for help in urging the public against killing what he described as “the Emo or the vampires or Satan worshippers.”
A government official released a statement on the second of this month, claiming that there are “vampires in Baghdad, that they are “Emo’s” and that they “absorb blood from the wrists of each other”. According to how you translate it, he says that people consensually cut, and drink blood – behavior which would be consistent with the real Vampyre community – but by all accounts, this is simply an application of a stereotype designed to make “Emo” kids and culture appear heinous and threatening in order to gain support to snuff out any sign of diversity.
Are there real Vampyres in Iraq? Statistically speaking, there ought to be, and there probably are – but it’s increasingly unlikely that we will ever know. What can be said for sure is that there is no known VC in Iraq – and as days go by, decreasing chances that there ever will be.