Children around the world hang themselves after Saddam death
By Anna Johnson CAIRO, Egypt, AP
January 15, 2007, 12:00 am TWN
The recent deaths of several boys and adolescents around the world share a common thread — they hanged themselves after watching graphic footage of Saddam Hussein's execution.
From Yemen to the United States, officials and family members say these children were apparently mimicking the former dictator's Dec. 30 hanging, shown not just in a government-issued video but also on clandestine tapes that popped up on numerous Internet sites and some TV channels.
In Yemen, at least two young boys died and another was severely injured after they apparently imitated Saddam's death.
One of the cases involved a 13 year-old Yemeni junior high school student who hanged himself after watching Saddam's execution on television, a security official said.
In the eastern Pakistan town of Rahim Yar Khan, a 9-year-old boy died hours after Saddam Hussein when he tried to mimic the former Iraqi dictator's execution, said local police official Sultan Ahmed Chaudhry.
In another deadly incident in Saudi Arabia, a 12-year-old boy was found by his brother hanging from an iron door with a rope around his neck, the Okaz newspaper reported Jan. 8, quoting the brother.
The boy, identified as Sultan Abdullah al-Shemmeri, lived with his family in the province Hafr al Baten, which is close to the Iraqi border.
"The child was just 12 years old and didn't really know whether the execution of Saddam was something good or bad," a Saudi Interior Ministry official said Saturday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the press.
Similar cases were reported in the United States, where a 10-year-old Texas boy hanged himself Dec. 31 from a bunk bed after watching news reports of Saddam's death, and in Turkey, where a 12-year-old boy on Wednesday also hanged himself from a bunk bed after watching TV footage.
Local media in Algeria and India have reported other mimicking deaths, but these could not immediately be confirmed.
Many family members and some experts have blamed the television and Internet images of the deposed Iraqi leader's hanging, some which show him dropping through the gallows floor and his dead body swinging at the end of a rope. The leaked videos, apparently taken with camera cell phones, drew international outrage over the way the execution was carried out.
Hisham Ramy, an associate professor of psychiatry at Ain Shams University in Cairo, said graphic videos can have a severe affect on children who don't yet understand the consequences of death and violence.
"They see how it's done, but they don't think it's horrific, and they're more likely to imitate it," he said.
But child psychologist Jasem Hajia in Kuwait City cautioned placing all the blame on video images. "This is extreme, and I think there were physiological disorders as well with the children," Hajia said.