By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent
One of the traditional hallmarks of the Eid al Fitr & al Adha festivities in the Middle East is young children and adolescents lighting off firecrackers and bottle rockets much to the chagrin of anyone within earshot. The first cracks and ear-shattering pops can be heard within moments of the ending of the Eid prayers. During the holiday, which lasts from between 3-10 days in the wealthy Gulf region, the scent of burnt sulfur wafts in the air as many adults wrestle with allowing their children to make some noise or having some peace and quiet.
The downside to parents allowing their kids, some who are still in elementary school, to welcome the Eid holidays with firecrackers is the inevitable injuries that often ensue. In Kuwait for example, every Eid holiday is followed by reports in the local media of children being scarred, maimed or even blinded by firecrackers. Other countries in the region, like the UAE, often struggle with a spate of firecracker-related injuries both during and after the Eid holidays.
Most countries in the Middle East have banned the import of fireworks and igniting a firecracker is a crime. Nevertheless, smugglers still manage to bring scores of fireworks and related paraphernalia into the region. With little enforcement of the law, most kids can get away with lighting fireworks with reckless abandon. However, at least one country is putting itsâ€™ foot down.
Oman has taken a hard line against fireworks this Eid promising to punish lighter-toting and firework-combusting transgressors straight to the slammer. The Royal Oman Police are on alert for anyone distributing or using fireworks. The penalty for ignoring the ban may result in a three-year jail stint and a fine in upwards of 3,000 Omani riyals. Repeat offenders face a double penalty and will be tried in an Omani court of law without the possibility of parole.
Oman is not the only country grappling with firework-related crime. This past week, three Indian expatriates were arrested in Kuwait for possessing fireworks. Apparently the trio had been lighting the fireworks at their residence in celebration of the recent Diwali, or Hindu â€œFestival of Lightsâ€, festivities.