Iraq must investigate the killing of 'emo' teenagers perceived to be gay, three major organisations have said.
'Emo' is a sub-culture with its roots in alternative, punk and rock music, and is usually identified with black and other counter-cultural fashion.
Medics in Iraq recently reported that at least 15 teenagers have been stoned, beaten or shot dead in the past month because of their alternative style of dress and taste in music.
Local activists and rights groups have said the total is higher, and that as many as 58 teenagers might have been killed in the last six weeks.
However the Iraqi government denies the violence was motivated by teenagers' 'emo' identity'.
In a statement on 8 March the Interior Ministry said that the reports were "fabricated" and "groundless".
On Friday the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said the attacks had "created an atmosphere of terror among those who see themselves as potential victims".
They pointed to a 13 February statement by the Iraqi government which characterised emo culture as "Satanist" as evidence it is unable to protect vulnerable youth.
"The government has contributed to an atmosphere of fear and panic fostered by acts of violence against emos," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of claiming that the accounts are fabricated, Iraqi authorities need to set up a transparent and independent inquiry to address the crisis."
Several of the teenagers who have been killed were locally suspected of being gay, the groups said, and in Iraq the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Homosexuality is illegal in many Arab countries, and even though Iraq haas no official law several powerful religious groups have condemned it.
Iraqi human rights activists told the three organisations that in early February signs and appeared Baghdad which issued threats to emo teenagers that they "maintain complete manhood".
A report by Al-Sharqiya TV on 7 March said that two young women were beaten in public in al-Mansour, Baghdad due to their "fashionable clothing".
The groups also highlighted a 22-year-old gay man in Baghdad who received death threats after his friend was abducted and beaten and has since cut his hair and does not leave his house out of terror.
"At best the response of the Iraqi Interior Ministry is completely inadequate, at worst it condones the violence against emo youth," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International.
"Iraqi authorities should unequivocally condemn the attacks, investigate any killings, and protect anyone in danger."