Thursday, October 2, 2008


For the past 3 days, my neighborhood has been invaded by kids carrying guns, all styles of guns: there's the ubiquitous AK47 (a household favorite), silver pump action 12-gauge shot guns, M16's and even tiny Uzis, specially designed for summer shorts. The armed children patrol the street and give each others orders on the fake Motorola talkie-walkies. Sometimes, they engage each others: they take fighting stances, move cautiously from car to car, then roll across the street and light explosive devices that shake our windows. This is when I go out onto the balcony and shout at them, but without much effect. They continue shooting at each other, using real ammo, special spherical bullets that give you bruises.

It is the Eid el Fitr, a celebration of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in Muslim countries. The tradition is that kids are given toys and light fireworks. This year, there are more toy guns than in any other year, and the kids must have been receiving serious street fighting training, because they look and act as if they just walked out of Playstation II. Or of the latest street battles of May 2008, in which Opposition and Loyalists forces fought each other over the control of Beirut.

The area in which I live was a battleground last May. The same kids who are now playing war with realistic weaponry witnessed it all. They looked and learned. They studied the moves on the cable TV action channels, practiced virtually on their computer game stations, and are now honing their skills through field practice. I saw the same scene everywhere I have been in Beirut, in both Loyalists and Opposition neighborhoods. I also saw the same guns-toting kids playing the same games in the villages of the South I visited yesterday.

Q: What do Lebanese children dream of?
A: An upgrade.

Go build a peace culture with that.


Marcy / مارسي said...

an interesting companion piece to your post:"Plastic guns blamed for dozens of 'seriously injured' children in Gaza" from Ma'an News:

Gaza - Ma'an – De facto police in Gaza are asking parents not to give plastic guns to their children after dozens were taken to hospitals for injuries sustained during 'Eid Al-Fitr, health officials said.

Hospitals say that over 150 kids were treated after being shot by the plastic bullets fired from the toy guns.

"These kids are getting seriously injured by these plastic pallets," a Hamas police statement read on Thursday. It also noted that many of the reported injuries are to the eyes.

The police called for residents to take responsibility for the gifts in order to prevent more kids from getting hurt.

Police also said that the guns "enflame quarrels," and are causing arguments between families and neighbors. Hamas also called on shop owners to stop selling the toy guns.

Leila said...

Trying again to post comment
Yesterday (Thursday) in Haret Saida I was riding in a car driven by the wife of an MP - a street in the area is named for her father-in-law. Two children with guns, one a submachine gun, the other a big black revolver, stepped into the side street where we drove and made us stop. My friend told me not to worry, the guns were fakes, and she engaged the children in a conversation as if they were really a checkpoint. The boy with the revolver held it up and told her to roll down her window. He aped looking in front and back seats, stepped away and said "yallah tfaddalo" and motioned us forward.

It was quite realistic and disturbed me. I have been in South Lebanon for 5 days and no checkpoint has stopped me yet, not even when we pass by Ain el Helweh entrance. I remember the war (I visted in 78) and I have seen children holding real guns at their own "play" checkpoints - on the road to Nabatiyeh in fact, 1978. So this game was no game in my opinion.

Children play at what they see....

It was indeed wonderful to see you. I didn't get a chance to hear from you directly about your Bikaa project - I am now on line for a bit and read about it in the blog. Thank you for the update. It sounds terrific. Too bad I'm leaving Lebanon right as you set up this responsible tourism project. But there is so much I don't have time or energy to do on this trip. So I must come back, and soon.

I'm glad to know that we do all understand each other so well...

Anonymous said...

This is disturbing. If you shout at them, they may shoot at you, who and what will prevent them from doing so?! Are there any cops to call over that or to confiscate there guns? Is it that much of a jungle?