APPEAL Help street children in Iran
In the span of six years the number of street children in Iran has soared from 20 000 to over one million. This fifty-fold increase in the number of children who are bereft of any kind of family protection and are treated as stray dogs by the authorities is as striking as it is unbelievable. Without any protection and pushed to their limits of endurance, these unprotected, hungry and traumatised children have been victims to all sorts of social evils. According to Iranian government’s own statistics, in 2000 there were more than 30 criminal gangs which made use of these juveniles in Tehran alone. The majority of these children are subjected to most draconian forms of economic exploitation. The average number of working hours to which these children are subjected is around 12 hours per day. In 2000, well over 300 000 children under the age of 15 were forced to work and government estimates predict a doubling of this number in 2001. In the so-called holy city of Qum, children between the age of 8 to 16 are sold to the owners of carpet workshops for as cheap as $25 to $125.
The Iranian government which has so far failed to provide the most basic provisions for these traumatised and abandoned children has itself been one of the severest obstacles to any non-governmental initiative to help and protect these children. The Iranian government has closed down very few charity and special programmes which were organised to help the street children. They have usurped the very limited funds which have been made available by international agencies for the purpose of supporting children in need in Iran.
In view of the dire circumstances of the street children in Iran, their most bestial economic and sexual exploitation by Iranian authorities, businessmen or gangsters and in order to assist the valuable work which is already being conducted by non-governmental organisations and selfless individuals in Iran, The Association for the Abolition of Child Labour in Iran has started a campaign to aid and protect street children in Iran. As part of this campaign we aim to inform and mobilise the public opinion against the atrocities which are conducted against these vulnerable children. To this end, we would like to call on all organisations and individuals who share our aims to sign the following petition as a form of expressing their outrage and moral indignation against the current situation of street children in Iran.
¾ Every child should enjoy legal and economic protection and a healthy environment for his or her upbringing, education and physical and intellectual development provided by the society and its adult population;
¾ Iran is a signatory to the Convention on Children’s Rights (with the exception of recognising the age of consent for girls to be 18 years and a few other points) and the Convention on the Prevention of Hazardous Works for Children and it has officially committed itself to upholding the main principles of these conventions;
¾ There are widespread economic and sexual exploitation of children in Iran and the Iranian government has so far refrained from its responsibilities to securing the rights of children as safeguarded in the above conventions;
¾ Organisations and individuals who strive to improve the conditions of street children in Iran are harassed and intimated by the Iranian government under a variety of pretexts
We the undersigned demand the following:
¾ Closure of loopholes in existing conventions which allow countries like Iran to trample on children’s rights under the guise of cultural relativism;
¾ Increase in the age of consent for girls to 18 years in Iran according to the provisions of international conventions
¾ Legal and social protection for all the organisations and individuals advocating of children’s rights in Iran;
¾ The complete banning of child labour in Iran;
¾ The provision of comprehensive and free residential and educational facilities for street children in Iran under the supervision of concerned international agencies.
Chairperson of The Association for the Abolition of Child Labour in Iran
20 November 2002
List of organisations and individuals supporting the resolution and demands of The Association for the Abolition of Child Labour in Iran in defence of street children in Iran