By Tamjid Alkohali
“Violence in childhood is like an inscription on stone,” said Dr. Dalal Saleem while she watched children playing during Eid al-Fitr.
In Yemen, the streets during Eid turn into wars zones. Children from different ages carry gun beads, firecrackers, and fireworks. They begin acting out tragic roles of the wounded and of martyrs. Such behavior suggests a damaging future.
Playing with gun beads and firecrackers is fun for Yemeni boys, especially during Eid and social occasions. However, this fun can quickly turn into sorrow and pain.
Amjad Ismail didn’t expect that Eid this year would cause the loss of one of his eyes. On the second day of Eid al-Fitr near of his house there was a group of children playing with fireworks known as rockets. While he was going out from his house, one of the small rockets hit his left eye and exploded.
Ismail was taken to al-Thoura hospital in Sana’a. The doctor told him that the exploding rocket in his eye led to a rip in the retina of his eye and damaged the nerves of vision, which means he will never see again.
At al-Thoura hospital, there was another case of a boy who lost his hand as a result of playing with firecrackers.
“I was playing with a firecracker called Tomach. I attempted to set off the firecracker, but due to the shortness of the wick, the incendiary exploded in my hand,” said the boy.
Dr. Ayed at al-Thoura hospital emphasized that there are a plenty of accidents caused by gun beads and firecrackers. “During Eid, the hospital receives many cases such as lost eyes or hands as well as less serious injuries like burns and deformities. The number of these cases reaches to about 28 every day,” said Dr. Ayeed.
Dr. Ayed added that guns beads lead to the most serious eye diseases such as blue water, white water rafting, retinal detachment, optic nerve atrophy, acute inflammation of the iris, and most often permanent blindness.
Social researcher Dr. Dalal Saleem watches the boys on the streets play with such games every day and has her own opinion about this. According to her, the young boys’ interest in these dangerous games is acquired from their fathers’ interest in carrying and using weapons during the social occasions and special days.
In Yemen, carrying weapons and shooting on occasions is considered one of the most important traditions. Therefore, children do the same. They imitate and express their happiness on occasions using firecrackers and gun beads.
“Violence during childhood is like an inscription on stone. Playing these games in this way is a dangerous phenomenon because it builds a violence culture among children and makes them use violence in real life in the future,” she emphasized.
On other hand, the current civil conflicts in the country have a clear role in encouraging boys to practice these games.
Dr. Saleem said that she noticed most of the boys in the streets divide themselves into three parties (Houthi, Reform, and Congress) and start fighting using gun beads and firecrackers.
“In fact, we need awareness campaigns to change the culture of violence in the country and spread the culture of unity instead,” she added.
The phenomenon is exacerbated with the flourishing trade of firecrackers and gun beads in most markets. Children don’t need to look for them. They can be found in the nearest grocery store or firecracker store.
Though parents realize the danger of these games, they stand unable to confront their children’s desires. They blame incompetent authorities, which allow traders to import such games.
“We feel worried about our children because we are unable to control them, especially during Eid. Children have money and the firecrackers are everywhere and in large quantities,” said one father.
Despite the approval of the Ministry of Interior to prevent the use of fireworks on weddings, occasions, and holidays, they are still available in all markets.
Ali, a fireworks vendor, emphasized that nothing prevents them from selling fireworks and until now, there hasn’t been any campaign launched to prevent the sale.
An agent of civil defense, Brigadier General Abdul Karim Mayaad, said that the decision of prevent fireworks isn’t enough to actually prevent it. In his opinion, there should be a law to prevent importing them from abroad.
China is considered the innovative and manufacturer state of these fireworks. However, in China they don’t use them in weddings, holidays or occasions as in Yemen. They have used them as a strong voice to expel demons since the seventh century as well as during national occasions, but under supervision.