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 On the Causes of Child Suicide Attacks and How to Stop Them
 Ashraf Al-'Ajrami, Palestine
 May 3, 2002
 
Why Palestinian Children Commit Suicide Attacks

The phenomenon of martyrdom [perpetrating suicide attacks] is on the increase, particularly among youth and minors. It seems that the Palestinians' distress from their lives of difficulty and degradation under the occupation pushes many to disdain life and seek the shortest way to the Hereafter, in order to free themselves of reality and reach Paradise.

The honor and esteem that the Palestinian people gives to the martyrs has, no doubt, had a crucial effect on the emergence of this phenomenon. Likewise, the funerals of the martyrs and the celebrations held in their honor have always been accompanied by talk of life everlasting and the eternal serenity [promised] in Paradise, making people think: "Why wait and go on living a life of misery when Paradise can be reached by the mere press of a button or even by coming in range of Israeli shooting."

There is danger in exploiting the nationalist sentiments and enthusiasm among minors to encourage them to martyr themselves for nothing, as has happened in the Gaza Strip. There, children have recently risked their lives to be martyrs and to attain life everlasting, or at least a hero's funeral and festivities in their honor, as are held for martyrs.

Some Gaza children are influenced by the schools, the mosques, or the gatherings attended by many children at which praise for sacrifice and martyrdom is voiced.

Some are willing to arm them for money—with pistols, hand grenades, and readily available pipe bombs that cost only a few shekels. These brainwashed children are imbued with motivation to approach the nearest settlement, where they are shot dead by the soldiers of the occupation.

Our data indicates that a considerable number of the children who martyred themselves in the Gaza Strip went to the settlements in broad daylight, or in open areas; in 90% of the incidents, they faced danger, because they were armed with grenades, pipe bombs, and similar objects—in most cases purchased with their own money—and in all cases incapable of harming the occupiers.

Besides, the children's martyrdom [suicide] promotes the hostile propaganda of the enemies, particularly in reinforcing their claims that the Palestinians send their children to the front line. These are false claims aimed at justifying the indiscriminate shooting at all the Palestinians, shooting that has caused the deaths of many children throughout the months of the Intifada and constitutes a danger to the lives of these small youths whose homeland will need them when they grow up and are able to serve society.

Furthermore, the phenomenon causes [a tendency] among the children to rebel against their parents. Following the phenomenon's spread, it was noticed that children were threatening their parents that they would martyr themselves if they [the parents] did not meet their demands or did not turn a blind eye to [the children's] inappropriate behavior.

Moreover, some of the children have used pipe bombs during arguments amongst themselves, as has happened in more than one place.

How to Stop Palestinian Children Suicide Attacks

Collective efforts should be made to contain and stop this phenomenon. These must begin at home, where the children should be supervised, cared for, in particular having their moral needs met, and their activities and movements monitored. Then, [the same] at school and in the mosque—and this is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. All activities having an ill effect on the children's emotional stability, pulling them in directions outside the normal matters of children, must be monitored. The schools should take it upon themselves to engage the children in developing hobbies and utilizing their time for positive activities that help develop their character, reinforce their reason, and free them from the negative influence of the events happening in the homeland.

Similarly the security apparatuses should apprehend the arms traffickers and collaborators acting among the youths to make money or to exterminate this generation with its nationalist enthusiasm and its will to fight. These arms traffickers and collaborators should be severely punished.

It is also important to stop the mosques from engaging in exaggerated political activity that provides [fertile] ground for anyone who wants to abuse the minds of youths and minors.

The Palestinian media have an important role to play in refraining from broadcasting pictures affecting the emotional state of the children, and in refraining from exaggerating in reporting tragic news that arouses among the children feelings of frustration and despair. Similarly, children's programs must constitute a proportionate part of the entire broadcasting, and they should be [broadcast] frequently in times of emergency.

[We] all must keep in mind the fact that the current situation is temporary, and that the future will be better. The future, at any rate, belongs to the youth, the generation of tomorrow.

Excerpts from an article in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, May 3, 2002, reprinted May 6, 2002, as Special Dispatch No. 376 at The Middle East Media Research Institute.