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.

 

Iran airs "confessions" of researcher facing death for spying

Mayor of Libya's Misrata assassinated

Macron sees war on IS in Syria will be won in February

Assad blasts US-backed Kurdish fighters

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Protesters torch political party offices in Iraqi Kurdistan

Turkey prosecutor seeks release of German reporter

Kuwait likely to face political uncertainty

Lebanon arrests suspected killer of British embassy worker

Israel targets Hamas site in Gaza

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks