“I only remember death was dancing on all sides, the children were falling down and the cars following the race were taking away the bodies of those who were killed or injured” —ex-camel jockey Pakistani boy
According to the a older report by International Ngo SAVE THE CHILDREN “Camel Jockeys of Pakistan” the barbaric game of camel racing and its negative effects was exposed in a shocking manner. This research has focused on three key areas: child jockeys, parents and the “agents” involved into the whole process.
The country has a failing record at protecting of its own citizens against all forms of violence and child trafficking is at the forefront.
Most Pakistanis if you speak with will express two type of sentiments at their governments: anger and helplessness.
After 67 years of becoming an independent nation, we boast of great war weapons while half of the population is living under the poverty line, without access to electricity, clean water and instability. The poor state in which people live makes an excellent factor for the exploitation by the richer states.
This research report was conducted into collaboration of a Bahawalpur-based NGO Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organization,in the district of Rahim yar Khan in the southern Punjab. It traces the historical aspect of camel-racing, a dying Arab tradition which was revived by the Gulf States governments to sponsor camel racing and soon became an international high stakes game.
The research is the first ever of its kind, where amongst respondents included parents, 46 children who went through the trafficking and exploitation trauma. All of them have been trafficked at an average age of five years, the youngest being three and the oldest eleven. On an average these children spent about four years on the camel racing tracks and fifteen of them had spent seven years. Twenty nine children had been sent back to Pakistan by the age of ten, and the remaining seventeen between the ages of eleven and fifteen. They had been repatriated because of their racing injuries or their weight exceeding 20 kg. All had been trafficked to the UAE.
Camel Jockeys |Profile
The little Camel jockeys lived very hard lives. They were put in azbas or camel farms, in the desert where they lived for 24 hours a day. The only time they were taken out was when they were needed to race the camels. They were mostly without any caregiver, in the company of adult workers and treated exploitatively. They were physically and sexually abused, made to work from dawn till dusk and poorly fed to keep their weight under 20 kg level. They said they were terrified when put on the camel’s back but they were even more afraid of their masters.
Story of Imran
Imran fell from his camel while racing. When he landed on the ground, he was trampled on by the other camels in the race. He lay unconscious and no one bothered about him till the race was finished. After the race he was thrwn into a pickup van and brought to the azba by the masool and the mudhamer. He was not provided with any medical treatment except a pain-killing spray which is used for treating all sorts of injuries. Imran’s brother who was also working as a camel jockey in one of the nearby azbas only came to know about Imrans’ accident after one and a half month when he secretly visited him in the night. When the masool of the azba where Imran’s brother was working came to know about this visit,he beat him with sticks.
Imran was sent back to Pakistan after two months as the lack of proper medical treatment had left him with a disability.
Parents of Former Camel Jockeys
“When the people see other people wearing an expensive watch and silk clothing, they also develop a greed to have the same. If they see with their eyes what happens to their children, they would die of crying”
Abdul Shakoor, Parent of a disabled child camel jockey
Most parents said they would not send their children to the Gulf again, even if offered millions in cash. Another parent mentioned the lack of educational and job opportunities which has pushed them to take this drastic action; it had seemed an easy way to make money. To their naive and illiterate minds, this seemed to be an answer to their economic hardships and seemed like any normal work opportunity.
Protecting Children from Trafficking into the Trade
The report also summarizes how the participants suggested that effective measures are needed to reduce poverty, promote education and implement laws against child traffickers. Recommendations for the needs of international commitment to implement existing legislation and stop cross-boarder trafficking were made.
The Government of Pakistan needs to take appropriate legislative, administrative and diplomatic measures to control trafficking inside Pakistan and offer the education and training which could give real options to families trapped by poverty.
Child rights activists like Mr. Sabir Farhat of Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organization, of international acclaim Ansar Burney and many others were able to pressurize the “ban” on using of children as child jockeys. But a decade after being banned, those working on the camel jockey supply chain end in Pakistan have yet to close up shop.
As Pakistani slid further into deep-lasting economic doldrums, there are many desperate people still willing to sell their children.
And where there is a seller, there is always a buyer. To see vulnerable children being exploited is heart breaking on a level that I cannot express into words. It is hard to stay sane when one knows out there are poorly treated children in need of our help.