Children’s television programs and magazines are known for teaching young people valuable life lessons. From the ABCs to the basic tenets of sharing, these instructions help shape young, impressionable minds. But in Tunisia, the first nation to experience the transformational Arab Spring, the power and influence of “Qawz Quzah,” a popular children’s periodical, is being used to teach kids how to make Molotov cocktails.
For those unfamiliar with these devices, here’s a basic definition: “a crude bomb made of a bottle filled with a flammable liquid (as gasoline) and usually fitted with a wick (as a saturated rag) that is ignited just before the bottle is hurled.” As startling as this may seem, in a recent issue, this is exactly what “Qawz Quzah,” which translates to “Rainbow” in English, instructed children ages five through 15 to concoct.
The magazine, itself, didn’t seem very interested in hiding what the purpose for the device was either. According to NBC News, a translated line from the article reads, “(A Molotov cocktail) is an improvised weapon that is often used in riots and acts of sabotage because it is easy to make and use” (the startling article appeared in a section of “Qawz Quzah” called “Knowledge Corner”).
The inclusion of the Molotov cocktail in the kids magazine is particularly troubling, as Tunisia — despite electing a transitional government headed by the Islamist Ennahda party — is still facing religious division and infighting. Aside from the horror associated with teaching children violent mechanisms, there’s also the issue of instability and the notion that the magazine is potentially fueling continued chaos.
These devices have been a primary tool in ongoing religious battles in the country, causing one to wonder if “Qawz Quzah” was looking to engage impressionable children as tools in these acts of violence. On Tuesday, Monji Chebbi, editor-in-chief of the magazine, apologized for what he called a “professional mistake.”
As the Daily Mail notes, The Ministry for Women and Family Affairs decried the article and said that it “encourages violent and terrorist thought,” while also urging “acts of vandalism or terrorism” among children. The government said on Monday that it plans to prosecute the magazine for publishing the article, however the issue has already been released and children have likely already seen it.
While an investigation has been launched and a case is highly probably against “Qawz Quzah’s” publishers and others involved in creating the issue, a judge will end up determining the actual charges that the magazine and those associated with it will face. “Incitement of violence” is likely to be one of the alleged offenses brought against those who were complicit.