Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Iraqi children venture out to play in safety on Muslim holiday

BAGHDAD: Thousands of children ventured out onto the bomb-scarred streets of Baghdad and into a zoo Wednesday amid a lull in violence as Iraqis observed a major Muslim holiday. Across the country, people were enjoying the four-day Eid al-Adha (feast of the sacrifice) holiday, but celebrations were largely subdued after almost three years of violence.

In a rare public show of festivity, families poured into Baghdad's main Azzawra zoo to check out the animals - including a tired-looking bear and lion - even though at least half of the cages were empty.

They also crammed onto amusement rides and paddled about on boats in a small lake inside the zoo area. Other revelers stretched out on a grassy field or ate at a number of restaurants.

Adding to the party atmosphere, music blasted from stereos carried by young men as boys and girls danced around their parents.

"We are fed up with staying indoors so we decided to come out for a change," said Amal Mohammad, 35, whose two young daughters were prancing to the beat of the music.

Actually, from the Iraqi bloggers it seems that every holiday people go out and make the best of it. Apparently, even the terrorists are moved by the holiday and lay off a bit.

But, the most interesting part was this:

The insurgency has had another impact on children's lives, inspiring them to play "terrorist and policeman" rather than "cops and robbers."

"I shot the terrorist, I shot the terrorist," shouted Omar, eight, as he played with his brother and two friends at the zoo.

Asked why they were playing such a game, he said: "There are a lot of terrorists so we have to fight." At the entrance to the zoo, a toy vendor said he had swapped plastic cars and dolls for plastic Kalashnikovs, other rifles and even plastic mortars.

"These toys are all the rage now. It is what children want," said Maan Mohammad, 22, noting that business was booming.

One hates to see children imbued with the idea that violence is natural, but the important lesson here is that the "terrorists" who think its okay to set off bombs and kill people have already lost by way of the youngest generation.

Read the restThe Daily Star - Politics - Iraqi children venture out to play in safety on Muslim holiday

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