The ongoing confrontations between tribal and military powers, clampdowns on al-Qaeda operatives and news of recruiting minors in armed conflicts have had their toll on the children of Yemen and who instead of playing with toys now prefer weapons, war games, and military uniforms.
In the capital Sana’a, children are hardly seen playing with regular toys as guns took precedence and war became their favorite game. In the southwestern city of Taez, children have actually invented their own primitive guns which shoot bullets and produce noises that terrorize people.
The most striking part of the story also happened in Taez where one of the schools held a ceremony for students with highest grades. In the ceremony, attended by officials and public figures from the education sector, students were rewarded for their efforts with toy weapons.
“My son was given a Kalashnikov while his colleagues were given pistols, bombs, and other types of weapons,” Abdullah Abdul Hamid, father of one of the students, told Al Arabiya.
“This is scary and portends a bleak future for our children.”
The increasing popularity of toy weapons was paralleled with their increased availability in all children’s stores especially during public holidays when sales are at their peak.
“The profit I get from toy weapons is much more than what I get from anything else,” Mohammed Sultan, owner of a toy shop in the capital Sana’a, told Al Arabiya.
“Kids love buying them all year round.”
During holidays, children no longer like to wear adult clothes like suits and ties or tribal Arab costumes as they used to in the past. Instead, they are now interested in wearing military uniform which they choose according to the rank and the army unit they pretend to belong to.
Naji Dubwan, a socialist, said that the lack of monitoring on the part of Yemeni authorities is the main reason behind the prevalence of the phenomenon.
“Shop owners are taking advantage of the government’s passivity to sell toy weapons to children and neither parents nor mayors of villages are doing anything about it,” he told Al Arabiya.
Dubwan explained that engaging in war games has a negative impact on the children because it makes them believe that violence is the solution to any problem.
“The general atmosphere has made things worse. There are ongoing armed conflicts that made the scene of war quite normal for many children and that made you see children standing by military barriers rather than attending the morning queue at school.”
In an attempt to monitor the import of children’s toys, the Yemeni General Association for Standards and Meteorology at the Sana’a International Airport banned three cargos carrying 65 boxes of toys seen as dangerous for children from being accessed into the country.
“The cargo contained crystal beads that can get bigger till they reach the size of a ball if a fluid is poured on them,” said association manager Mohsen Shaker.
Shaker explained that these beads are dangerous because they can cause death especially that kids are prone to swallowing them.
“I call upon all Yemenis to take part in monitoring the types of toys that invade the Yemeni market in order to protect our children from their dangers.”