29 March 2004

South Africa: My Six-Year-Old Wants to Be Martyr, Says Dad

This six-year-old boy, dressed as a Palestinian suicide bomber, complete with a belt of fake explosives strapped to his body, says he wants to go to heaven - and his father says his child wants to be a martyr.

Uzair Dockrat was taken by his father Mohammad to yesterday's march in Pretoria, organised by the Muslim community to voice anger at the killing of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City last week.

Uzair was paraded days after a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Hossam Abdo, was captured by Israeli soldiers at a Gaza City checkpoint with about 8kg of explosives strapped to his body. He said he had been paid to carry out a suicide mission.

After prompting from his father, Uzair swore revenge on Israel for the killing. According to his father, Uzair expressed a wish to become a martyr.

"Martyrs are heroes ... they go to heaven," Uzair said.

"They (Israel) kill our people with tanks and helicopters. We can blow them up," he said.

Mohammad Dockrat said his son's costume was a "symbolic act of self-defence" against Israeli aggression.

"We are violent towards those who are violent towards us, and in this case, Israel is the aggressor," he said.

Dockrat defended Uzair's costume, arguing it was not intended to encourage violence, but "is a statement against the unlawful Israeli occupation of Palestine".

According to Dockrat, little Uzair would prefer to strive for victory through justice rather than violence.

"He understands the status of a martyr, but will rather see justice instead," he said.

Uzair, confused and bewildered by the attention, seemed content to sit on his placard calling for the killing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's death, and wrestling with his two older brothers.

Uzair was told by an unidentified adult protester: "You will be a martyr one day."

A few hundred protesters gathered in Lynnwood, Pretoria, before marching to the Israeli embassy.

The march was supported by the SA Communist Party, the Pan Africanist Congress and the Muslim Youth Movement.

Escorted by police, they stopped outside the embassy, chanting anti-Israel slogans.

The protesters dispersed peacefully.

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