January 9th 2003 was one of the happiest days for 15-year-old Masud and his father Bachchu Mollah. Masud was returning to his family after 10 years.
Masud was trafficked from Bangladesh to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the age of 5 to be used as a child jockey, a popular sport in the Arab nation. He was stolen by one Syed Mia from a relatives house and had been sold to a company owning camels for races in the UAE.
Masud was recued by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) who were contacted by the boy's family when they saw him on Television. After verifying the claim, BNWLA found Masud abandoned by his trafficker and brought him back to Bangladesh.
In his village, Maud's mother, his four sisters, two brothers and family members waited along with 500 other village members to welcome Masud back home with flowers and sweets.
Not very far from the place where Masud's joyous reunion with his family happened, international and domestic experts and government officials met on January 6th 2003 to look at ways to stop child trafficking and exploitation.
The focus of the conference was the trafficking of children to be used as camel jockeys. It is estimated that anywhere between 100 to 1,000 children are working as camel jockeys in the UAE alone, the majority of them trafficked from Bangladesh.
While talking about his life in the UAE, Masud mentioned that he was given 'hormone injection' to retard his growth and keep his weight within limit so that he could continue to be a camel jockey.
"I won many races as a jockey and my employer, an Arab, paid me 350 riyals per month", said Masud. The hormone injections did their job.
The trafficking of child camel jockeys from Bangladesh to the UAE is a reality. In spite of being signatories of the ILO Convention 182 and the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, both these nations have failed in protecting their children from being exploited in inhuman ways.
Posted on 2003-01-15