Dr. Ansar Burney, Human Rights Activist and Humanitarian
March 18, 2005
A new law in the UAE prohibiting camel jockeys under the age of 16 or weighing less than 45kg is due to go into effect at the end of this month. An important step in eradicating this previously sanctioned form of child abuse, it remains to be enforced, a job the human rights community is bound to police.
"Camel jockeys" are children, abducted or sold voluntarily from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to camel racing syndicate in the UAE. The weight of the jockey is crucial to the success of the venture, so young boys, even as young as two years old, are imported. South Asian boys in particular are recruited because they tend to be the cheapest, weigh less and tend to scream louder at a higher pitch than most adults, causing camels to run faster.
Rules published by Emirates Camel Racing Federation (ECRF) in June 2003, stipulated that any camel jockey must be aged 15 years or more and weigh at least 35kg have largely been ignored and the practice has continued unchecked.
One long-term and important voice on this issue has been Dr. Ansar Burney, Pakistani human rights advocate and chairman of the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust Ansar Burney Welfare Trust.
According to the Trustís web site:
In addition to its work to eradicate child slavery like the abduction and forced labor of children in camel racing, the Trust is involved in bringing reforms in Police Stations and Prisons; and works for the aid, advice, release, rehabilitation and welfare of the illegally and unlawfully detained or confined prisoners, mental patients, missing and kidnapped children or persons and drug addicts.
The Ansar Burney Welfare Trust was set up as a non-governmental, non-political and non-profitable human and civil rights organization. Its main objective was to struggle for the release of innocent persons who were kept in prisons or in mental asylums illegally or without any justification.
It has also arranged release of around 20,000 (twenty thousand) persons from mental asylums and mental wards of prisons. These were not mental cases but were kept in these asylums in inhumane conditions by influential persons due to their own vested interests." Ansar Burney, Advocate
His work in decrying and publicizing the practice of using children as camel jockeys has contributed to increased awareness of this problem.
According to the ABWTI web site, Mr. Burney has been successful in tracing out around 100,000 (one hundred thousand) children through his Bureau of Missing Persons who were safely delivered to their families. These include children who were set free from bounded labor camps, child camel jockeys and young girls who had been sold away for prostitution.