No Gunfire, No Wedding! [Archives:1998/18/Culture]

May 4 1998

What is that? The sky is in flames. The thundering sound of shotguns, rifles and bombs are echoing all over the district! Is it a maneuver? Is it the nightmare of another civil war? I have rubbed my eyes a little to see whether I am dreaming or awake! Am I in a village in the suburb in Taiz or in the south of Lebanon? I started asking about the heart of the matter. I was told that it was just a wedding ceremony. I couldn’t believe it. Do you know why? The bullets and other sorts of ammunition fired into the air were numberless. The nearest approximate estimate would be in the tens of thousands.

People, especially in the villages, like to hold their wedding parties during the Eid holidays. This is because they exploit the gathering of people coming from different cities in order to double their rapture and happiness. In the villages, the way of celebrating such occasions is a little different from that in the city. When the bride is being brought to the bridegroom’s house, bullets are fired into the air, irrespective of the people being in cars or on foot, all along the way. The father of the bride comes the next day with many people firing plenty of bullets. Some people come and congratulate the bride and share in these unforgettable moments in similar fashion.

But, the most remarkable trend currently becoming popular with people in some villages is the blasting of bombs during wedding festivals. Missiles and tanks might be used in the next phase: During the night, the flashes of gunfire can be clearly seen where bullets are flying in all directions. Of what value is all this? Is it really for fun? Some people do it to show off, since they think that it brings them some fame. Therefore, it has become a must for those who deem themselves as someone.
One really feels shocked at the sight of such a great number of people carrying guns and moving in hordes. The result is that many innocent people become targets to stray bullets. Many unwary passerby’s are hit and become crippled for life or die. Of course, the practice of shooting guns is not restricted to wedding ceremonies during Eid, but is common throughout the year. I talked with many people about this practice and found that many of them were very unhappy and annoyed by it. Because, in this way, plenty of money is wasted where people get nothing in return. But, if there is some kind of awareness, this money can be utilized in implementing some projects of social value. Many needy people deserve some help.
It should be mentioned that this practice has become commonly widespread after the civil war of 1994, wherein many people had lots of weapons and ammunition, since they could be bought easily at bargain prices.
There is a more serious dimension of this problem. The existence of many armed people has made it tempting for trotting brigands to seek the gun: The final and easy way of finishing and solving all sorts of disputes, even trivial, between people. This is particularly a more attractive proposition with the growing economic hardships that people are facing nowadays. They are now easily irritated and short-tempered. Hence, any kind of misunderstanding might lead to flaring of nerves, gunshots, then murder. The result is many victimized people, and thus, the law of the jungle prevails.
Of course, the absence of authority of the government is an important factor in the deteriorating state of security and safety in such regions. In some places, after the authority had failed in bringing some outlaws, murderers and other evil-doers to justice, it resorted to reconciling with them. The irony is that they are now helping the authority in solving the problems of the people in spite of the fact that they themselves preview the law. This irresponsible practice has encouraged other people to walk in the same steps as the outlaws.
Moreover, the state of lawlessness and absence of penalty has given rise to the spread of the hated social practice of blood revenge and retaliation.
Recently, in one area of the suburb of Taiz, a person murdered another in the evening because of some conflict between them. The murderer fled to another city, but after some mediation he was brought to the security office of that district. He was imprisoned for some days, then was sent with 1 soldier to the city of Taiz for further investigations. The son of the murdered man, only 13 years old, rode in the same car. On the way he shot the murderer of his father in the head and ran away while his brothers, who were guarding the place, started firing their guns.
This disorder and chaos is indeed due to the relative ease with which guns and other weapons can be procured. Can the government show us its muscles , demilitarize the civilian population and free it from the shadow of the guns? I truly hope so!
By Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi,