From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

Boys apparently mimic Hussein death

Police in Webster, Texas, said Sergio Pelico, 10, hanged himself from
a bunk bed.

By Anna Johnson, Associated Press  |  January 15, 2007

CAIRO — The boys’ deaths — scattered in the United States, in Yemen,
in Turkey and elsewhere in seemingly isolated horror — had one thing
in common: They hanged themselves after watching televised images of
Saddam Hussein’s execution.

Officials and relatives say the children appeared to be mimicking the
former dictator’s Dec. 30 hanging, shown both on a sanitized Iraqi
government tape and explicit clandestine videos that popped up on
websites and some TV channels.

The leaked videos, apparently taken by cell phone cameras, set off
international outrage over the raucous scene at Hussein’s execution,
but some specialists are more concerned about the images of the
deposed Iraqi leader dropping through the gallows floor and his body
swinging at the end of a rope.

The specialists say such graphic images can severely affect youngsters
who do not yet understand the consequences of death and violence —
especially because Hussein ‘s death received intense international

“They see how it’s done, but they don’t think it’s horrific, and
they’re more likely to imitate it,” said Hisham Ramy, an associate
professor of psychiatry at Ain Shams University in Cairo.

A day after Hussein’s execution, a 10-year-old boy in Texas hanged
himself from a bunk bed after watching a news report on the execution.
Police in the Houston suburb of Webster said the boy, Sergio Pelico,
tied a slipknot around his neck while on the bed but had not meant to
kill himself.

“I don’t think he thought it was real,” Julio Gustavo, Sergio’s uncle,
said afterward. “They showed them putting the noose around his neck
and everything. Why show that on TV?”

Something similar occurred in Turkey, where 12-year-old Alisen Akti
hanged himself Wednesday from a bunk bed after watching TV footage.
His father, Esat Akti, told a newspaper in the southeastern province
of Mus that his son had been affected by the televised images.

“After watching Saddam’s execution he was constantly asking ‘How was
Saddam killed?’ and ‘Did he suffer?’ ” Akti was quoted as saying.
“These television images are responsible for my son’s death.”

Nine-year-old Mubassahr Ali, from the eastern Pakistan town of Rahim
Yar Khan, died hours after Hussein when he also mimicked the ousted
leader’s execution, local police official Sultan Ahmed Chaudhry said.

“The ill-fated boy used a long piece of cloth, tied it with a ceiling
fan and wrapped its other end around his neck. Then he stood on a
chair and fell down,” Chaudhry said.

In Yemen, at least two young boys died and another was injured in
apparent imitations of Hussein ‘s hanging.

One of the cases involved a 13-year-old junior high school student who
hanged himself after watching Hussein ‘s execution on television, a
Yemeni security official said.

When the boy’s family returned to their home outside the capital,
San’a, on Wednesday, they found him hanging from a tree wearing a
traditional Arab headdress, said the boy’s cousin, Yahya al-Hammadi.

In Saudi Arabia, a 12-year-old boy was found by his brother hanging
from an iron door with a rope around his neck, the newspaper Okaz
reported. The boy, Sultan Abdullah al-Shemmeri, lived with his family
in the province of Hafr al-Baten, near the Iraqi border.

“The child was just 12 years old and didn’t really know whether the
execution of Saddam was something good or bad,” a Saudi Interior
Ministry official said Saturday. The official spoke on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Local media in Algeria and India also have reported other mimicking
deaths, but these could not immediately be confirmed.

Ramy, the professor in Egypt, said children are prone to imitating
violence they encounter on television, the Internet, and movies, but
usually they act out against another person. Mimicking a hanging or
suicide is unusual, but perhaps in this case it is unsurprising, he

Because “some people have said Saddam is a hero and martyr and have
glorified his death, this has affected children,” Ramy said.

But Jasem Hajia, a child psychologist in Kuwait City, cautioned
against placing all the blame on video images. “This is extreme, and I
think there were physiological disorders as well with the children,”
Hajia said.

4. Why do you think the epidemic example is so relevant for other
kinds of change? Is it just that it’s an unusual and interesting way
to think about the world?

“No. I think it’s much more than that, because once you start to
understand this pattern you start to see it everywhere. I’m convinced
that ideas and behaviors and new products move through a population
very much like a disease does. This isn’t just a metaphor, in other
words. I’m talking about a very literal analogy. One of the things I
explore in the book is that ideas can be contagious in exactly the
same way that a virus is. One chapter, for example, deals with the
very strange epidemic of teenage suicide in the South Pacific islands
of Micronesia. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Micronesia had teen suicide
rates ten times higher than anywhere else in the world. Teenagers were
literally being infected with the suicide bug, and one after another
they were killing themselves in exactly the same way under exactly the
same circumstances. We like to use words like contagiousness and
infectiousness just to apply to the medical realm. But I assure you
that after you read about what happened in Micronesia you’ll be
convinced that behavior can be transmitted from one person to another
as easily as the flu or the measles can. In fact, I don’t think you
have to go to Micronesia to see this pattern in action. Isn’t this the
explanation for the current epidemic of teen smoking in this country?
And what about the rash of mass shootings we’re facing at the moment–
from Columbine through the Atlanta stockbroker through the neo-Nazi in
Los Angeles?”

“It may come as a surprise that the tiny island paradise of Micronesia
is one of the leading teen suicide capitals of the world. This isn’t
because it’s a depressing place to live or because of unpleasant
social pressures (as you’d see, for example, in some northern Canadian
Native communities) – it’s simply because it’s cool. It’s not uncommon
to see a teen suicide after a minor breakup or an argument with ones
parents, and some kids have even died just because they “wanted to try

It started with the popular son of a prominent family. He had two one
month old babies by different mothers, neither of which knew about the
other. The stress caught up to him and he hung himself – and the two
mothers met each other at the funeral. This “cool” suicide opened the
door of acceptability, and this one death grew into an epidemic of
unnecessary hangings.”


“One evening a nine-year old boy who had been watching television in a
neighbor’s house returned home only long enough to fetch a rope with
which to hang himself. The boy, whose body was found two days later,
was reportedly afraid that his father would spank him for remaining
out so late. A week before his death, an 18-year old who had drifted
from house to house for several months, hanged himself when one of his
older relatives insulted him. Not long before this, a girl of 15 who
had been refused permission to use her older sister’s video recorder
died of a self-administered overdose of medicine. Within the same
month, a 24-year old from another place took his own life after he was
refused credit in the family store. In all there were four suicides
within a month in Truk, an island group with a population of about
40,000 that is located in the geographical center of the Federated
States of Micronesia, one of the Pacific’s newest nations.

In recent years Truk has shed some of its paradisal image as it has
taken on the dubious distinction of being the suicide capital of the
Pacific. Despite its well-publicized suicide epidemic in the past
decade, this appelation is not entirely deserved, for Western Samoa’s
suicide rate during the late 1970s was even higher and other island
groups in Micronesia show rates that equal Truk’s (Table 1). Truk,
however, was the first island group to attract public attention
following a sharp increase in the number of deaths in 1975 and the
discovery that suicide had become the leading cause of death among
young males in the 15-30 age cohort (Hezel 1976 & 1977). Truk soon
became the locus of intensive research into this startling new
phenomenon. Donald Rubinstein, a social anthropologist affiliated with
the East-West Center in Hawaii, conducted an epidemiological survey in
1979- 1981 and has just concluded a three-year NIMH-funded
ethnographic study of a single Trukese community to isolate factors
leading to suicide. Meanwhile, the Micronesian Seminar, a pastoral-
research institute sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of the Caroline-
Marshall Islands, has continuously collected data and conducted
several conferences on the problem. Police reports, hospital records,
death certificates and other public records were consulted, but the
main source of information was interviews with the families and
acquaintances of victims. The average case file contains three or four
different interviews, usually conducted with different individuals and
at different times as a check on the reliability of our information.
This article draws on these case records and the ethnographic work of
Rubinstein, as well as considerable input from Trukese offered at a
half dozen formal workshops and countless informal discussions on the
problem. Representing as it does the culmination of nine years of
study, this article attempts to go beyond our previous work on the
characteristics and cultural meaning of suicide in Truk (Rubinstein
1983; Hezel 1984). While briefly reviewing this earlier work, the
present article will try to explain the reasons for the recent
enormous increase in Trukese suicide in terms of the socio-cultural
changes that have occurred of late.”

Children die in copycat hangings / 25 August, 2004

At least three children have died while acting out the recent hanging
of an Indian convict, reports say. Other children are reported to have
hurt themselves in similar incidents.

Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard, was convicted for the 1990
rape and murder of a school girl who lived in the building where he
worked. His execution in the eastern city of Calcutta on 14 August
whipped up a media frenzy with some news outlets covering it in great

Mock trial

A 14-year-old boy in the western city of Bombay (Mumbai) died after he
hanged himself by a rope from a ceiling fan at home in an apparent re-
enactment of the execution.

“The boy’s father told us Prem was a very bright but curious kid and
kept asking questions about how Dhananjoy would be hanged,” a senior
police official told Reuters news agency. “Dhananjoy was the top news
on all TV channels for so many days and Prem would watch very
closely,” he said.

The Hindu newspaper reported that another 14-year-old boy died in the
eastern state of West Bengal over the weekend, also while re-enacting
the hanging. Samiran Tiwari hanged himself with a cycle tube while his
parents were away from home, the newspaper said.

In another incident last week, a 12-year-old girl died in West Bengal
while trying to show her younger brother how Dhananjoy had been

“I shouldn’t have left her home alone especially when she’s been
talking about the Dhananjoy hanging all the time,” the girl’s father
told The Telegraph newspaper after the incident.

Some other children who tried to re-enact the hanging have been
luckier. Anjan Saha of West Bengal was playing out the execution with
his friends in a primary school when the rope gave away, The Hindu
reported. Sheikh Aslam Khan, 12, almost choked to death when his
friends “hanged” him from a tree after a mock trial in the same state.

‘Easy imitation’

Khan’s friends, according to reports, were playing the roles of the
executioner, doctor and prison warder. Psychiatrists say such copycat
incidents are often provoked by media overkill, to which children are
susceptible. “Children have a natural curiosity about anything out of
the ordinary,” psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria told Reuters.

“Also, several newspapers and TV channels had given detailed sketches
of execution by hanging, making it easier for the kids to imitate.”

Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s was the country’s first execution since 1995.

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