Sunday, October 21, 2007

Child's Play

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Try as he might, Baghdad businessman Ibrahim Georges can't persuade his 11-year-old daughter Sandy to lay down her arms in favour of something less hostile, such as a doll.

"She loves her gun," Georges said as Sandy, short-haired and dressed in long trousers and T-shirt, proudly displayed a menacing GC toy automatic rifle that, according to a bold stamp on the side, was made in China.

"She never plays with dolls," added Georges ruefully, outside their home in a quiet residential street in the relatively calm western Karrada suburb.

"It has laser and can fire on regular or on automatic," said Sandy, brandishing the gun that can spit out 6mm BB pellets hard enough to take out an eye and is sold in a box carrying a warning, "The best for 18 and up."

"All the children in the streets have toy guns," said Georges with a shrug, pointing to a gang of boys with whom he said his daughter plays "cops and robbers."

Earlier this year, Trade Minister Abed Falah al-Sudani considered banning the toys because they look so realistic. However, given the seeming impossibility of the task, he appears to have shelved the idea.

Whether invented by parents to scare their children or whether it really happened, children all know the reason it would, perhaps, not be a good idea to point a plastic weapon anywhere near a US soldier.

"One boy was killed by an American soldier who mistook his toy for a real gun," said one of Sandy's friends, who gave his name as Zain and his age as 12, parroting the correct answer.

According to shopkeeper Uday Mohammed, the incident really did happen "about a year ago in Diyala province," which is why he warns children buying guns from his store to be ultra careful about displaying them in public.

Mohammed said toy guns are his biggest sellers by far, and that there had been a run on imitation weapons during the just-ended Eid al-Fitr Muslim festival, when children are given new clothes and toys. "Children prefer guns to trains, balls or radios," he said.

------ I'm reluctant to say it – but giving realistic looking guns to children, particularly in a war zone, is beyond stupid. It's criminal child abuse and endangerment – but wait - will a civil liberty union wanna sue me and some Iraqi rifle association shout about right to bear arms? Will Sally Field say I am not one of the good mothers fit to rule the world?

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