The controversy over fireworks use in Yemen [Archives:2007/1040/Reportage]

April 9 2007

By: Yemen Times staff
People use fireworks on many occasions, such as weddings, religious eids and national holidays, to express happiness and enjoyment, but fireworks nowadays are used to hurt and disturb others without any response by the state or police. While state forbids commerce in fireworks, at the same time, takes no punitive action against wholesalers or fireworks retailers.

Although fireworks are used to express happiness, many citizens consider them an aid to disturbing and hurting others. As Abdulkarim Al-Obaidi describes, “Fireworks disturb us so much because people now use fake bombs, not fireworks. The sound of some of these fake bombs is exactly like that of real bombs. In the past, we used to hear fireworks, but we now hear bombs, not fireworks. It's wrong to call them fireworks. The first time I heard these bombs, I thought it was an explosion at a neighborhood house. All of the women and children were very frightened. Even now, we're scared when we hear such sounds.”

He adds, “The one responsible for such disturbance is the state, which easily allows the criminals – wholesalers – to bring fireworks into the country.”

Younis Al-Ansi, 25, remarks, “I think fireworks are the most disturbing thing. Because many homes don't have yards and as a result of careless by some parents, many children play in the streets and like to play with fireworks. They disturb us so much.”

A man requesting anonymity expressed, “We can't bear the disturbance of fireworks and fake bombs used at weddings and daily on our streets. Our women and children are frightened. It's like we're in the wild, where no state will save citizens' calmness and peacefulness.”

Esam Al-Zubair, 28, points out, “We understand children's desire to play with fireworks; however, the problem is that many of them play with fireworks in the evening as a result of some parents' lack of supervision of their children.”

Ahmed She'elan, 65, complains, “I live with my wife, who is in her 50s. Children disturb us with their fireworks, so we always shout at them. However, because we're old, they make fun of us and increase their disturbance. I complained to their parents and even went to the police station, but to no avail. We really can't bear the disturbance from fireworks.”

Not only does the sound of fireworks disturb others, but the power of their explosion often can injure. Mohammed Al-Olaibi, 20, recalls, “I cut my hand while I was lighting fireworks at my uncle's wedding and it cost me a lot to treat it. Since then, I've given up playing with fireworks.”

The Yemeni government uses fireworks merchants and those who use fireworks as a medium to make money. As Lt. Col. Abdullah Naji Jezailan, chief of Himyar police station, states, “We arrest fireworks retailers and send them to prosecution, which releases them after fining them around YR 5,000 as punishment. The same happens to those who use fireworks at weddings.”

Col. Hameed Beshr, police chief of Sana'a's Old City district, explains, “We don't call them importers, but rather smugglers because trading in fireworks is forbidden. Some types of fireworks contain strong explosion power, so they really disquiet others and bother police. We apprehend fireworks smugglers, confiscate their fireworks and send them to prosecution. However, because there isn't any legal punishment stipulated against fireworks merchants, the prosecution then releases the merchants with their fireworks.

“We must reconsider the legal punishments and add new items to the law for the sake of criminalizing commerce in fireworks,” he added.

However, citizens stress that Yemeni police arrest merchants and those who use fireworks simply in order to extort money from them, not to secure citizens' peace or safety. Mohammed Al-Nedaish, 45, expresses, “It's not the police; rather, it's a gang against citizens because they always try their best to find ways to extort money. So they arrest fireworks retailers and citizens to steal money from them; otherwise, why arrest them and then release them the same day?”

Ahmed Al-Hamdani, 34, asserts, “The police only go after the poor. If any poor people use fireworks at their weddings, they are arrested, fined a lot of money and humiliated in front of their relatives and guests. In this case, the police will apply the law exactly. However, if any official or commander uses fireworks at a wedding, Yemeni police will come and help him.”

Attorney Abdu Al-Thabhani comments, “It's true that [Yemeni] law doesn't criminalize using fireworks, so police can't confiscate fireworks or imprison importers and retailers. However, they can do so under the pretext of disturbing the public peace and safety.”

Some citizens are for using fireworks at weddings and eids, but in an organized manner. As Mohsen Al-Shibami, 34, notes, “I think the problem isn't using fireworks, but rather, how and when to use them because fireworks are used all over the world as an expression of happiness. What we need is to use fireworks at a suitable time. We shouldn't use them in the evenings and children shouldn't use them during the day – only at a specific time on a specific day.”