If qat were banned, how would it change your life? [Archives:2008/1151/Reportage]

May 1 2008

By: Khaled Al_Hilaly
For the Yemen Times

Ali Al-Mansoub, lab technician

Banning qat would mean eliminating diseases. Many qat chewers suffer diseases caused by using qat, such as mouth or lung cancer, and they spend large amounts of money on treatment.

Sleeplessness, tooth decay and poisoning from pesticides also are related to qat use and these would decrease if we stopped chewing qat. When I don't chew qat, I can concentrate and I spend my time usefully.

Ali Al-Faqih, qat farmer and salesman

Millions of Yemenis depend on qat for their living – growing, harvesting, packaging, transporting and selling it; therefore, banning it would be a real disaster for them, as well as for the entire country.

Because qat is a highly profitable income source, I don't think it would be easy for me to find a replacement. Additionally, social relationships and friendships would weaken if qat didn't exist.

Rashid Al-Sam'ee, 20, security guard

Without qat, we would look our true age; pale and angry faces would look younger and happier. We'd sleep at night instead of staying up late chewing qat.

I know a man in his 80s who looks younger than me because he doesn't chew qat, but I do.

We would return to reality if we abandoned the qat habit, which causes us to live in a non-existent world where everything is ok.

Kawkab Al-Quladhi, teacher

If qat were banned, there would be fewer family conflicts, more attention for children and men would be more understanding. Those men who usually ask their wives for money for their qat, as well as those women who ask their husbands for qat, would stop disputing about qat and pay attention to their children.

Instead of qat, parents would buy meat and fruit. Additionally, they'd have time to sit with their children and help them understand their lessons and do their homework.

Safa'a Al-Samadi, 19, student

Instead of qat, fertile lands would be used to grow crops, which may lead to exporting or reducing the need for imported food.

We would become economically independent and there would be stability in family budgets.

However, in contrast, new negative habits that are even worse than qat then would spread throughout our country.

Yasmine Al-Wafi, 27, student

Without qat, many aspects of our lives would improve. We'd eradicate some

habits accompanying qat usage, one of which is preparing the qat and its accessories.

For example, it takes a long time to prepare for qat sessions, from outfitting the qat room with cushions to burning incense and washing the qat.

Qat chewing rooms must be ready all the time.

Approximately 12 hours of every day are spent with no results.

Banning qat also would improve individuals' health, giving them healthier bodies and teeth.

Hisham Sanhoub, 26, student

Since qat is one of the main reasons for our backwardness, eradicating it would change our lives for the better.

We spend between five and six hours a day chewing qat and chatting uselessly.

This time could be utilized in more useful ways, such as working, studying or exercising.

Hanan Al-Haimi, student

Qat is essential for my family; however, it wastes much of our time, money and energy. Without qat, our situation would improve. For example, we could save money and then I'd be able to achieve my goals and study at university.

Mutual understanding between family members would improve because a man who spends most of his time at qat sessions would pay more attention to his family.

Ibrahim Farhan, 32, doctor

Needless to say, qat is one of the key causes of our country's falling behind. If we managed to eradicate qat, we'd overcome poverty, develop our education and eliminate all of the risky diseases related to qat use.

Doing so also would lead to improved work performance – no more sluggishness and sleepiness. Our mornings and working hours would be filled with productivity.

Our economy would develop and then we'd be ready to join the Gulf Cooperation Council, which definitely would accept us.

Ahmed Shamsan, 42, teacher

I think it would be hard going without any other recreation or parks in which to spend our leisure time and even those gatherings would be short-lived and boring.

From an economic standpoint, my financial position would improve. I spend YR 12,000-15,000 ($60-75) per month on qat and that's a considerable amount of money compared to my salary. I'd make good use of that sum to buy wheat and other essentials for my family.

Zaid Al-Faqih, writer

The country would witness a cultural revival. People would leave these hot, stuffy and noisy rooms filled with cloudy and pungent air due to the tobacco smoke for parks and theaters.

For example, for the YR 1,000 ($5) cost of a bunch of qat, a man could take his family to a park or theater.

Additionally, couples could go for a walk arm-in-arm in the afternoons rather than remaining indoors and shutting themselves off from the outside world.

Intisar Sinan, 40, employee

Eliminating qat would enable us to save up for a house, for example, and the growing of other crops would be revived. If qat markets were removed from the cities, crimes, thefts and robberies would decrease.

However, despite all of the advantages to banning qat, it would bring new habits into our society, as heavy qat chewers would switch to drugs or alcohol, as is happening in neighboring countries.

Ahmed Al-Sharafi, 28, engineer

Banning qat would threaten the lives of many families whose qat business is their only source of income. In other words, millions of unskilled people would find themselves without jobs and their children without food or education. High unemployment would affect our lives in one form or another.

Amani Al-Fayadhi, 19, employee

Life would be so nice without qat and understanding would prevail between family members.

I wouldn't be forced to sell my jewelry to finance my father's or my brother's qat habit; instead, I could save up and buy myself clothing or gold.

Fathi Al-Shurmani, accountant

Qat helps me work and concentrate. If I didn't chew qat, my physical and mental work performance would decrease, so the hours I spend chewing qat are considered productive time.

Chewing qat is a social activity that gathers people and friends together -employee with employer and officer with citizen, side by side.

Social relations would break down if qat were banned. Moreover, people would wander the streets and use drugs or alcohol.

Sahar Al-Ansi, 21, student

The status of the Yemeni family would develop. In my family, my father and three brothers, all of whom are qat consumers, spend more than 50 percent of the family budget on qat. If we got rid of qat, we could afford luxuries.

At the national level, we could save our water resources from vanishing, since qat consumes huge amounts of water thereby leading us to an imminent water crisis.

Faheem Al-Hurabi, 26, optical technician

The time we devote to qat sessions would be available for visiting relatives and friends, which would strengthen our social relations. We would have time to go on trips, have picnics or visit parks and zoos.

The money spent on qat sessions could be used to provide the home with basic requirements.

Furthermore, we would escape the health effects of qat, which lead to adverse economic conditions.

Ali Al-Mutarib, 19, student

I think banning qat would have positive and negative effects upon our society. While it may be correct that our living standards would improve, the social ties between families and friends would break up.

Unless qat chewers were given better alternatives such as sports clubs, parks or libraries, they would shift to other undesirable behaviors to spend their time.