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June 24, 2010
Falak Sher took his young son and his nephew from their rural village in Pakistan’s Punjab region to race as camel jockeys in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1998. He was in search of a fortune, but found a nightmare. Once there, his children were starved to keep their weights at the minimum for racing. They were given electric shocks as punishments for minor mistakes. “We were not allowed to leave the premises. It seemed we had landed in a prison,”he said. Camel racing is a hugely popular sport inmany Gulf States. As children weigh less, the camels go faster. Although the UAE repatriated 3000 child jockeys in 2005 to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sudan, the use of children as jockeys in the Gulf States is still reported. Reintegrating the children has been a challenge. Despite a government scheme to get them back into school, many were reluctant. Parents and children [...]