Violent play a favorite hobby for Iraqi children

War toys lucrative products in Iraq’s local markets

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Violent play has become a favorite pastime for many Iraqi children, prompting toy weapons to invade local markets and pose as lucrative products.

Plastic guns are the most common toys seen with Iraqi kids, but pistols, guns, mortars, bombs, rocket launchers and miniature trunks and Humvees have also started featuring in the Iraqi markets.

Warfare toys are the most popular among Iraqi kids whom, said toy shop owner Mohamed al-Deleimi.

“I hear parents trying to talk their kids into buying other toys, but they yield to their children’s insistence and tears,” he said.

Nouri al-Badrani, a vendor of sweets, said that although toy guns are usually related to boys, they are becoming exceedingly popular with girls.

“Girls play with weapons now,” he said. “They want to look like characters in cartoon series, such as Totally Spies and The Amazons.”

Iraqi kids are also engaged in another form of violent play as increasing numbers of them flock to cyber cafés that allow them to take part in several wars in the virtual world.

Culture of violence

According to psychiatrist Okail al-Sabbagh, children, especially males, resort to violence for same reasons that adults and animals do it for.

“Violence is a means of showing off their power and courage and proving the ability to conquer others,” he said.

Sabbagh added that violence among kids differs from one culture to another and depends on the political situation of the country.

“Iraq has been in a state of war for the past 30 years and that is why kids are used to violence and prefer playing with weapons,” he said.

“Violence has become a part of their psyche so that when you ask a kid to draw something you usually get the image of a trunk or a battlefield.”

Sabbagh pointed out a recent phenomenon that has been recently spotted in Iraqi streets especially during holidays.

“You see groups of kids walking together carrying different toy weapons so they look like an armed gang. We actually call them the fake gangs.”

Violence has become a part of their psyche so that when you ask a kid to draw something you usually get the image of a trunk or a battlefield

Psychiatrist Okail al-Sabbagh

Dr. Nahed Abdul Karim, head of the Sociology Department at the Faculty of Arts, Baghdad University, argues that the constant use of toy weapons makes children see violence as commonplace.

“Weapons become a means of entertainment and therefore they do not realize what the dangers of the actual ones are,” she said.

Abdul Karim agrees with Sabbagh as far as the political situation is concerned. Children, she argues, see soldiers roaming the streets all the time and the sight of weapons becomes a part of their lives.

“Children like to mimic and from there starts their growing interest in owning weapons.”

Abdul Karim called upon parents to monitor their kids’ use of toy weapons and encourage their children to use other means of entertainment.

“They have to be aware of the impact of those toys on the innocence of their children,” she concluded.

Weapons become a means of entertainment and therefore they do not realize what the dangers of the actual ones are

Sociology professor Dr. Nahed Abdul Karim

Banning war toys

The Women and Childhood Committee at the Iraqi parliament submitted a draft law to ban toys that teach violence. However, in the middle of squabbles over forming a new government, the issue has not been settled until now.

The Iraqi Doctors’ Syndicate also issued a statement warning of the actual physical hazards related to extensive use of toy weapons. Many injuries during the children’s fake wars especially cases of plastic bullets hitting the eye.

The new Chinese-made toys are modeled after weapons used by American troops and Iraqi security personnel which led to warnings of the hazards of carrying them in public since the resemblance between the real and fake guns could lead these kids to be shot.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)