Iraq Ministry of Public Health has reportedly urged the government to ban all toy weapons over fears of making children violent at an early age.
"It's the responsibility of the community to get rid of these toys. They make it easier for a child to make the next step to real violence, because every day he enjoys guns," The Telegraph quoted Dr. Emad Abdulrazaq, national adviser for mental health at the ministry, as saying.
The ministry, which itself has no authority to regulate toy sales, is now concentrating on one: a cheap plastic air pistol highly popular among boys that fires plastic pellets and has been the source of hundreds, possibly thousands, of eye injuries.
Dr. Kudair al-Tai, head of the technical department at Ibn al-Haytham Hospital, the country's main eye hospital, is one of those waging the campaign.
On a recent morning, Dr. Tai examined the eye of a 5-year-old boy named Mustafa, searching for scratches or internal bleeding. In late November, during Id al-Adha, the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice, the boy was playing with his neighbors when one of them fired an air pistol, hitting him in the eye.
Dr. Tai said that he often sees several injuries from pellet guns a day, some severe enough to require surgery. This year he went on television to advise parents not to buy the guns.
"The problem is not with the parents who purchase these toys but with the merchants that import such kind of toys." Because the toys are popular, parents "cannot resist their children's persistence." He said he had seen toy air pistols with a range of 50 yards," he added.