Teenage Suicide in the Middle East
Generally-speaking, from the data available, the teen suicide rate in the Middle East is tremendously low – lower in this region than anywhere in the entire world. Part of this, however, may be due to underreporting. Few nations in the Middle East have actually submitted data to WHO as far as suicide rates are concerned, and those that have are characterized by incredibly low rates. Egypt’s last report to WHO was in 1987: a 0.0 youth suicide rate (15 to 24 year olds), statistically-speaking, with only 3 total suicides (1 male, 2 females). Iran’s last report to WHO came in 1991: a 0.3 youth suicide rate with only 34 total deaths (25 males, 9 females). Jordan reported to WHO in 1979: a 0.0 youth suicide rate, zero total suicides for those between 15 and 24 years old for that entire year. Kuwait’s report is the most recent, as it came to WHO in 2001: a 0.6 youth suicide rate, with 2 total deaths (both males). It’s so intriguing compared to the rest of the globe. If the data that has been submitted is accurate and holds true across the region, it actually wouldn’t be that surprising. The Middle East is one of those difficult-to- decipher regions as far as East or West is concerned. As far as its leaders are concerned, it seems to prefer neither, or at least somewhere in between. Going back to Durkheim, this would be considered a moderate region. Its social integration and regulation are both moderate. Again, as Durkheim said, this would mean low suicide rates; the theory seems to be fit.
However, what about the center the Middle East is becoming for radicalism in recent years? It has become a base for religious fundamentalism, led by terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and Hamas. These groups use violence to get their points across and it is beginning to catch the eyes’ of the region’s young people. The terrorists know that teenagers are easiest to recruit – they don’t fully have their lives planned out and many of them become attracted to doing something for a greater cause. These teenagers have grown up learning about violence and how it can be glorified. They have been taught by radicals that being part of a suicide bombing is a noble deed that will gain them everlasting life and the adorned title of ‘martyr.’ The textbooks that children currently use in Afghanistan are filled with violence. The books are “lavishly illustrated with bombs, landmines, guns, and soldiers and filled with […] jihad and other militant Islamic teachings” (Sluzki 3). How ironic it is that these books were given to Afghan schools from the United States, in an attempt to increase children’s interest in waging war against the Soviet Union. Now children read these books and become interested in fighting the United States after hearing the repeated call, often propaganda, from nearby terrorist groups. This is just one example of how “seeds of violence” as Sluzki put it are being instilled in children’s minds (Sluzki 3). For more instances of violence being portrayed to youth, one need not look further than Palestine. Journalist Kenneth Timmerman wrote a disturbing article about the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. It was producing music videos, meant to appeal to children and teens, that encouraged the young to become martyrs and kill Israelis. The videos were made out of popular music and aired continuously on television. In one video in particular, a young boy is shown on his way to commit a suicide bombing. He says his goodbyes and sings, “Mother, do not cry for me.” That very line has appeared in at least three actual suicide notes between May 2001 and December 2002 – those who wrote the notes were between the ages of 14 and 17. This makes it clear that the videos were having an effect on teens. The worst part about the videos is that they glorify the act, make it seem painless, and in every way make it positive, an...
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