Educated youth between qat or drugs [Archives:2007/1105/Community]

November 22 2007

Marwa Baabbad
[email protected]

One day, I saw one of my friends stealing. I was shocked and I wondered why. In the end, I discovered that he did it just to buy qat. Since then, I started thinking deeply. Am I going to be like him? Is this the end of any qat chewer?!

I then decided to quit chewing qat. I began developing the talents I have and how to improve them. My father helped me a lot in this. I'm now feeling that my life is getting much better. I'm studying in the morning, working in the afternoon and exercising in the evening. I really feel self-satisfied. It's a fantastic and realistic example that motivates us to think about the talents we have that might turn us into talented individuals.

I spoke with a group of educated Yemeni youth and asked them their opinions about qat.

Akram Al-Hazmi, 22, is a former qat chewer who likewise saw the truth about himself and then quit. Many Yemeni youth discovered themselves long ago and don't chew qat.

Computer math student Nashwan, 22, is totally against qat chewing. He doesn't chew it because he believes that it's useless, aside from being both money- and time-consuming, “I divide my time between studying in the morning and doing my favorite hobby, navigating the internet, in the afternoon. I sometimes hang out with my friends in the evening before returning home to study. I feel that my day is full of many good and interesting things, so I don't feel like chewing qat at all.”

Between qat chewers and non-chewers is a group in between.

Amar Al-Nozily, 23, a student in the Faculty of Arts, English department, is one youth who is against the idea of chewing qat, but under the pressure of traditions and customs in Yemeni society, he can do nothing except join them in chewing on occasions such as weddings and funerals.

“As a young person, I can't sit with them without sharing with them in qat because I'd feel like a stranger and they'd make me feel that I'm in the wrong place,” he explains, adding, “But this rarely happens because I mostly try to avoid it.”

Likewise, 23-year-old medical student Sami Sa'eed doesn't like chewing qat, but at times, he's forced to subject to his society's traditions. “It's OK if qat helps me get involved in society, particularly businessmen's meetings, which are based on qat; however, I don't do it unless it's on very special occasions.”

Finally, the most common example among youth is the regular qat chewers.

Computer programmer Mohammed Abdullah, 25, chews qat nearly every day, considering it an important aspect of his life. “It helps me work and it also helps me and my friends meet with each other. I work in the morning and chew qat in the afternoon. I don't consider it a negative or a harmful thing because it's better than drugs.”

Many Yemeni youth have adopted this idea that qat is better than drugs, adamantly protesting, “We aren't taking drugs; we're just chewing qat!” However, I'd like to invite you all to speak frankly. You say this, but the situation has become very serious. Many young men have begun to take drugs and become hypnotic, while some others have mixed the two, which may destroy their lives and their nervous systems, as medical research shows. So, is this really true that qat is much better than drugs?

Statistics about qat

Statistics on the damages of qat from the National Association to Face Qat Damages reveal that qat consumes approximately 65 percent of total water usage in Yemen.

Citizens spend more than YR 2.4 billion per day on qat, so eight million qat chewers spending an average of YR 300 per day on qat equals nearly $12.1 million. In terms of lost productivity, eight million qat chewers being absent from work for five hours per day equals 40 million lost working hours daily.

Additionally, Yemeni families spend more than 65 percent of their budget on qat

The number of cancer cases due to chewing qat treated with chemical substances is 12,000 per year, with treatment of these cases usually being done abroad at the average cost of $3,000 for each case. Approximately 118 chemical substances and poisons are used to spray qat planted on 40 percent of fertile land in Yemen – and these phenomena are increasing.

Damaging health, family and the environment, qat is considered the number one enemy of Yemen and the main reason for its underdevelopment.

In past years, awareness campaigns have targeted 3 million citizens, including students, government employees and those from various groups of society, in places such as Abyan, Hadramout, Ibb and Taiz.