First Published: 2004-01-27

 
Gulf states aim to halt camel jockeys trafficking
 

UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia implement strict laws banning exploitation of children as camel jockeys.

 

Middle East Online

By Habib Trabelsi - DUBAI

Camel racing is a cherished tradition in Gulf Arab monarchies

The Gulf Arab monarchies, where camel racing is a cherished tradition, are trying to bring order to the national sport in the face of protests over the trafficking of children as jockeys.

The US State Department and human rights groups have raised the alarm over the exploitation of small children by traffickers who pay impoverished parents a paltry sum or simply resort to kidnapping their victims.

The children, mostly from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Pakistan, are then smuggled into the Gulf states.

They are often starved by employers to keep them light and maximise their racing potential. Mounting camels three times their height, the children - some as young as six - face the risk of being thrown off or trampled.

Local newspapers have reported several accidents in recent years, some of them fatal.

Associations such as the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust International and Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid, based in Karachi, have urged the International Organisation for Migration to help repatriate the children.

They say many children have been either tossed or dragged to death in the races after being partially dislodged from the rope binding them to the camel.

In a 2001 report, the State Department said labour laws in the United Arab Emirates were "sometimes enforced against criminal trafficking rings".

But no action was taken "against those who own racing camels and employ the children, because such owners come from powerful local families that are in effect above the law", it said.

Emirati authorities immediately renewed a law, ignored since 1993, banning the use of children aged under 15 and weighing less than 45 kilograms (100 pounds) as jockeys.

First-time offenders face a fine of 5,450 dollars, with a one-year ban from races for camel owners. A third offence would warrant a prison sentence.

Emirates Camel Racing Federation director Mubarak Ahmed al-Khili said on Sunday that the law was being "strictly implemented".

"From now on, jockeys, especially from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Sudan, must each be accompanied by a guardian, normally their father. They undergo rigorous training before taking part in races," he said.

Khili said they also have to wear helmets for races and protective gear.

In Doha, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, president of the organising committee for races, said Qatar enforces a strict ban on child jockeys unless they are accompanied by a guardian.

"Our religion forbids us to exploit or starve children," said Sheikh Hamad, adding that races were organised to "keep alive a bedouin tradition in a region where the camel is considered the best companion of the man of the desert".

In Saudi Arabia, the law is even stricter.

Apprentice jockeys have to be at least 16 years old, under guidelines laid down by the National Guard which supervises camel racing in the oil-rich kingdom.

To gain professional status, jockeys must be over 24, undergo a medical examination and present a certificate from a legal guardian.

 

Post-coup Turkey continues military shake-up

Egypt Christians hope for end to discrimination with new law

Morocco arrests 52 suspects planning to set up ISIS branch

HRW accuses Syria, Russia of using banned cluster munitions

Study says lack of exercise cost world $67.5 billion

Egypt former anti-graft head gets jail term for exaggeration

Rebels form 'supreme council' to run war-torn Yemen

France, Britain call for end to Aleppo siege

Al-Qaeda OKs breaking ties with Syria affiliate

Croatia arrests Kurdish man wanted by Turkey

Tunisian army kills two 'terrorists'

Turkey sees over 40% drop in visitors

Assad offers amnesty to Syria rebels if they surrender

Second France church attacker formally identified

Clinton camp accuses Trump of inviting foreign spying

Coalition opens formal investigation into Syria civilian deaths

Pope to journalists: 'World at war', but not a religious war

Turkey warns post-coup crackdown ‘not completed yet’

Egypt top Muslim cleric denounces murder of French priest

Russia denies meddling in US election campaign

Syria regime kills 16 civilians in Aleppo assault

Killer of France priest was 'Syria obsessed time-bomb'

Netanyahu defends war record after protest by parents of dead soldiers

44 dead in double bomb blast in Syria Kurdish city

Marketplace bomb in Yemen kills 7

Kuwait jails Shiite MP for insulting Arab Gulf states

Iran presidential election set for May 2017

ISIS claims deadly bombing in Syria Kurdish city

Bahrain tries prominent Shiite cleric

Turkey planning anti-Gulen army purge before coup

Turkey issues more arrest warrants for journalists

Israeli raid kills Hamas member said to be behind attack

Saudi condemns "in the strongest terms" deadly attack on France church

Egypt has asked IMF for financial support

Shabaab says suicide bomber was ex-Somali MP

Bahrain refers 138 ‘terror’ suspects to court

Brutal attacks reignite political friction in Germany

Weakened army still faces twin challenges in Turkey

Turkey detains top generals, prominent journalists in widening purge

Hamas 'summer camp' trains dozens of young people for war

Palestinians seek to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

UN hopes Syria peace talks can resume late August

Israeli authorities destroy 11 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Libya demands explanation over presence of French troops

ISIS claims attack on French church in Normandy