Child camel jockey

Child camel jockey

Before 2005, children as young as four [ [ Photo in the News: Robot Jockeys Race Camels in Qatar ] ] are trafficked from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sudan for use as jockeys in the Persian Gulf States' camel racing industry. While official policies are in place requiring a minimum weight of 45 kg (100 lb) of the jockey, these restrictions are ignored by most in the racing industry.Fact|date=April 2008

Child camel jockeys are often sexually and physically abused; most are physically and mentally stunted, as they are deliberately starved to prevent weight gain.Fact|date=April 2008 According to a documentary by the American television channel HBO and the Ansar Burney Trust , some of the children are only fed two biscuits a day with water, and forced to work up to 18 hours per day. [ [ Ansar Burney Trust - Human and Civil Rights Organisation ] ]

Many were seriously injured by camels.Fact|date=April 2008the child jockeys live in camps (called "ousbah") encircled with barbed wire near the racetracks. Because the children were sold by their families and find themselves in an unfamiliar culture, they are dependent upon their captors for survival.Fact|date=April 2008According to the HBO documentary, the person who viewed the camp said it looked more like a prison camp than a home for children.

Many are unable to identify their parents or home communities in South Asia or Sudan. Unlike other forms of trafficking that usually involve adults or older children, child camel jockey trafficking presents enormous challenges to source country governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to return rescued children to their parents and original communities.

Hundreds of children have been rescued from camel farms in Oman, Qatar and UAE and taken back to their original homes or kept in shelter homes. Countries have issued penalties for those who trafficked child camel jockeys and ordered the owners responsibilities for returning the children back to their home countries.

However, they report that in many instances the children rescued were those who had been sold away by their own parents in exchange for money or a job abroad. If they were returned, the children would again be sold for the same purposes. Other children did not speak their native languages, or did not know how to live outside the camel farms.

Qatar agreed in early 2005 to abandon child jockeys. While United Arab Emirates banned Child camel jockeys in 2002. Robot jockeys were used instead at a cost of about $5,500 and a weight of about 26 kg, the robots are remote-controlled by camel trainers who follow the camels in cars. The robots can use whips and can also shout to the camels. The robots must be sprayed with a special "perfume" to allow the camel to accept them as real. Oman followed suit in May 2005.

A shelter home was established by the UAE in Abu Dhabi where the rescued children were to receive an education, good food, medical facilities and were to be taught how to live outside a camel farm. As of the end of 2005, it is estimated that as many as 800 children have been sent back to their home countries.Fact|date=April 2008

In September 2006, ruler of Dubai and UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his brother Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum were served with a lawsuit in US district court in Miami, Florida for the enslavement of 30,000 boys in the past three decades for use as camel jockeys, of which only 100 could be accounted for. The suit was filed on behalf of only parents of six victims on the basis of international laws banning slavery and the use of child labor. The case was filed in Miami because the plaintiff lives there.Fact|date=April 2008

Banning the use of child jockeys

In Qatar, the Emir of Qatar, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, banned child jockeys in 2005, [,12977,1458529,00.html Can robots ride camels?] by Ian Sample, "The Guardian", Thursday, 2005-04-14] and directed that by 2007, all camel races will be directed by robotic jockeys.

UAE implemented stringent measures to eradicate, once and for all, the use of children as jockeys. The practice is officially banned in the UAE since the year 2002. The UAE was the first to ban the use of children under 15 as jockeys in the popular local sport of camel-racing when Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the ban on July 29, 2002. [ [ UAE enforces stringent steps to eradicate child jockeys] (Wam), "Khaleej Times", 24 May 2005] Announcing the ban, Sheikh Hamdan made it very clear that "no-one would be permitted to ride camels in camel-races unless they had a minimum weight of 45 kg, and are not less than 15 years old, as stated in their passports." He said a medical committee would examine each candidate to be a jockey to check that the age stated in their passport was correct and that the candidate was medically fit.

Sheikh Hamdan said all owners of camel racing stables would be responsible for returning children under 15 to their home countries. He also announced the introduction of a series of penalties for those breaking the new rules. For a first offense, a fine of 20,000 AED was to be imposed. For a second offense, the offender would be banned from participating in camel races for a period of a year, while for third and subsequent offense, terms of imprisonment would be imposed. [ [ UAE enforces stringent steps to eradicate child jockeys] (Wam) "Khaleej Times", 24 May 2005]

The use of Robot jockeys

Since 2005, many countries who are popular with camel racing had banned child camel jockeys and replaced them using Robot jockeys. The Government of Qatar initiated the development beginning 2004; a Swiss robotics firm named K-Team, designed the robots.

Early designs confused or frightened the camels. [ [ Robots of Arabia] by Jim Lewis, November 2005] The designs were modified to include more human-like features, including a mannequin-like face, sunglasses, hats, racing silks, and even traditional perfumes used with human jockeys. [ [ Qatar to use robots as camel riders] By Tarek Al-Issawi "USATODAY" 2005-4-19] Other issues included the conditions that the robots and the computers would be put under: usually high temperatures in dusty environments, atop a fast moving and turbulent ride.

The robots are small, light weight, and are remote controlled, usually by operators paralleling the race in SUVs. The robots, which are aluminum-framed with a "thorax" about the size of a large book, contain small hinged arms that control the whip and the reins. The robot can also monitor and transmit the speed and heart rate of the camel. [ [ Robots of Arabia] by Jim Lewis, November 2005]


* [ BBC - Help for Gulf child camel jockeys]
* [ Gulf - Under-age camel jockeys get caring hand]
* [ BBC - Child camel jockeys find hope]


External links

* [ Ansar Burney Trust] - camel jockeys related news, pictures and videos
* [] - UAE government-run website concerning child camel jockeys

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