We are celebrating this Labors day by remembering the society’s long lost and forgotten heroes who are either suppressed so we can retain our dignified charade or just because we don’t care about our society’s worth at all. We are talking about no one other than Iqbal Masih.
In appreciation to their work, we are enlightening one of the best examples of our community which helps us peek into our shortcomings and help us stand for these obvious devils among st us.
But who exactly was Iqbal Masih?
Iqbal Masih was a poverty-stricken Pakistani Christian boy, who at the age of 12 was brutally shot to death for standing up for his rights and the rights of all those similarly enslaved children like him and became the symbol of abusive child labour in the developing world.
Iqbal Masih’s Background:
Iqbal Masih was born in 1983 in Muridke (a city known for its decorative carpets) located in the outskirts of city Lahore, Pakistan. After his family borrowed a few hundred rupees and to pay back this amount he was forced to work for the borrower in his carpet weaving shop on a daily pay of 3 cents (for 12 hours of work). His story teaches us the insights of poor people who are then exploited by the so-called rich Carpet mafia.
In Iqbal Mashih’s borrower’s factory children were tightly forced to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week with 30 minutes of break for food and respite while bound with chains to carpet looms to prevent escapes.
The First Escape
Fed up with the inhumane environment, Masih at the age of 10 out of frustration and angst, ripped one of the carpets and escaped from the clutches of the factory and went to the nearest police station to seek help.
Turns out the police who were to help free Masih, returned him back to the factory owner with instructions advising more strict ways to prevent his escape.
The Final escape
In the same year, Masih tried for an escape a second time and approached Bonded labour liberation front school (BLLF) to help him free himself and others in the same situation.
BLLF helped Masih finish his wasted education, filled with energy and passion Masih completed a four year degree in 2 years and wished to become an a Lawyer to help children get rid of the disease of child labour which was ingesting childrens mental health and their future.
An eye opener for the world:
Turned out this time his voice resonated across borders and Iqbal who was a Labourer working in a dark room filled with carpet weavers until 2 years ago started delivering speeches for 3000 Pakistani children who were bonded with child labour chains which prevented them to taste the freedom.
In 1994 Iqbal received the Reebok Human Right Award in Boston and in acceptance he said
“I am one of those millions of children who are suffering in Pakistan through bonded labour and child labour, but I am lucky that due to the efforts of Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), I go out in freedom I am standing in front of you here today .After my freedom, I joined BLLF School and I am studying in that school now”
The Huge Loss, death of Iqbal Masih
On the 16th of April, 1995 Easter Sunday, a heroin addict shot Iqbal Masih when he was visiting his relatives, killing a 12 year old Activist ending his struggle to help the child enforced into labor at young and an illegal age. The whole community mourned the loss of a boy who became the voice and a cause to end the slavery in for the developing world. On the day of his funeral 800 people came to give their tributes.
Iqbal may have gone but his legacy stands and have affected the very lives of living people who can share the moments spent amongst him. Because of his struggle more than 3000 children got freed after his death, reforms of the child labor were more made strict and government took notice of the environment in Muridke.
In short Iqbal’s Achievements in a short span of Two years
- Inspired by Iqbal’s cause Free The Children and Iqbal Masih Shaheed Children Foundation, were formed.
- A book by the name of Iqbal was written by Francesco D’Adamo.
- In 1994 Iqbal Masih received the Reebok Youth in Action Award.
- In memory of Iqbal Masih the Movimiento Cultural Cristian (MCC- Christian Cultural Movement) and Camino Juvenil Solidario (CJS- Youth Solidarity Path) promoted the 16 of April as International Day against Child Slavery in Spain and South America..
- In 1998 the newly formed Istituto Comprensivo Iqbal Masih, a comprehensive education institute comprising several schools in Trieste, Italy, was named after him.
- In 2000 he received a posthumous World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child and the Piazzale dei Traghetti Iqbal Masih was inaugurated in Genoa, Italy.
- The 2006 A book called The Little Hero: One Boy’s Fight for Freedom was written on Iqbal’s legacy.
- In 2009 the United States Congress established the annual Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor.
- On 16 April 2012, the Council of Santiago, after a proposal of Movimiento Cultural Cristiano, named a Square after Iqbal in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
- In 2016, the “X Iqbal Masih Rugby Tournament” was held in Catania, Sicily.
- On 17 April 2017, the University of Salamanca committed itself to celebrate every 16 April as a Day Against Child Slavery on behalf of Iqbal Masih.