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article imageChild slavery provides camel jockeys in United Arab Emirates

By Justin King     Jul 8, 2014 in World
Abu Dhabi - Camel racing is the national sport in the United Arab Emirates. The sport is conducted in a similar fashion to horse racing in the West, with the notable exception that the jockeys are children that were bought from impoverished families.
In 2005, pressure from activists was thought to have ended the practice when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) officially banned anyone under the age of 18 from the sport. Of course, a law prohibiting anyone under the age of 15 from acting as camel jockeys had been on the books since 1993. It was not enforced by police who dared not tamper with the sport favored by the UAE’s royalty. Even after the United Nations helped by providing robots to serve as jockeys, the practice continued.
UNICEF declared victory when about 1,200 of the estimated 20,000 children used in the dangerous races were returned home as part of a repatriation scheme. Some of the children even received checks for about $1,000. They were originally purchased for about half of that amount from families in Pakistan who were unable to feed them.
In 2010, five years after the second ban, activists with Anti-Slavery International were appalled to find the practice still going on. Catherine turner said at the time
We are concerned that the fact the race was attended by the police and UAE dignitaries means that child protection is not being taken seriously.
Bux Taheem, an inspector with Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau, states that there are at least a dozen child-slavery rings linked to the camel races operating in the small district of Pakistan he is tasked with maintaining. Taheem did make it very clear that the children were not kidnapped, but that their parents willingly handed the children over, typically because they are too poor to feed them. Hundreds of children are being smuggled out of Pakistan in violation of the law every year.
Once in the UAE, the boys are kept in an “ousbah,” an isolated training facility where they are beaten and forced to work 18-hour days. The children are fed as little as possible to keep their weight down in hopes of allowing the camel to run faster. There have been reports of the boys being sexually abused.
The races are the most dangerous times for the children because a fall could leave them maimed or dead. Crushed genitals from the rough ride on the backs of the camels are common. If a camel falls and both the camel and the child are injured, the camel is treated for its injuries first because it is more valuable.
A summit on child and sex trafficking will discuss the issue on July 30th. The summit will be held in the United States and will be attended by representatives from the United Nations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies.
More about Child slavery, Child abuse, Slavery, camel jackeys, United arab emirates
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