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Hundreds of children at risk of abuse in Torkham

Hundreds of children at risk of abuse in Torkham

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On
Jun 15, 2017 - 08:58

JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Around 2,000 children who work as laborers in the Torkham township of eastern Nangarhar province are deprived of educationinfo-icon, sportsinfo-icon opportunities and face the risk of being sexually harassed and used in illegal activities.

This was stated by officials of the Afghanistaninfo-icon Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) branch for the eastern zone.

Hundreds of children wake up early in the morning and carry passengers’ bags and other materials in their handcarts to both sides of the border until late at night. 

Some reports say the children in Torkham also carry goods in their handcarts which are banned by Afghanistan or Pakistaninfo-icon. The children are also used by border police for extorting illegal money from truck drivers.

One of these children, Akbar (not real name) from Achin district of Nangarhar province, said his family left the district due to the conflict and displaced to Momand Dara district. 

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The 13-year-old said he daily walked for several kilometers to reach Torkham Township for work.

On a hot summer day, Akbar told Pajhwok Afghan News he had to bear the heat and heavy labor to earn money for his family.

He left school after his family was displaced and now he is busy in the township along with his 11 years old brother .

Sayed Wali, (not real name), is another child who performs heavy tasks in Torkham Township. “My father who had lost his both legs in the war cannot work. So I have to come and work here.  I also left school and do not meet my friends and play sports because of my work,” he said.

The AIHRC branch for the eastern zone said currently 1,985 children were busy in hard labor in the Torkham Township.

Children affairs director at AIHRC, Ghulam Hussain Bewas, told Pajhwok Afghan News that besides doing hard labor under a fire-emitting sun, the children were also deprived of education and sports.

About children’s harassment, he said: “We are also worried that these children may be used for sexual harassment.”

Bewas said security guards on both sides of the border used to beat these children whenever they tried to transfer illegal materials.

“Using children for bribery and corruption is one of the major problems, Torkham border security guards use children for collecting extortion money from truck drivers,” he said.

Nangarhar labor and social affairs director, Abdul Hakim Shirzad, confirmed children in Torkham Township were busy on labor activities for years. But he said the children were provided some facilities in cooperation with some organizations.

He said his office had interviewed around 800 child labors in Nangarhar and the survey showed the children were busy in 18 different types of heavy activities.

Many of such children are found in Jalalabad city, the provincial capital, Torkham Township and Sara Rod district. However, Shirzad said they had arranged public awareness, skill building programs and education facilities for labor children.

He said children’s working hours had been reduced and 150 children aged above 14 years were trained as car mechanics by the provincial social and labor affairs department in cooperation with some organizations.

The same organizations would also arrange education courses for child labors and would enroll them in grade six.

“Lack of a special budget for these children is our main problem. We are trying to help these children through other organizations, but we cannot do much for them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan Laborers Association (ALA) says around two million of children are engaged in hard labor across the country.

ALA head Dr. Mohammad Liaqat Adil said the question of child labor would not resolve until the relevant law was enforced.

He said laws and conventions the government had ratified only remained on paper and could not be implemented.  He asked the national unity government and the ILO to take a decisive action about the issue.

Experts believe child labor is against the Constitution, considering their physical ability and age.

Hakimuddin Manzanai, a law lecturer in a private university in Nangarhar province, said articles 48 and 49 of the constitution prohibited children from doing hard work and forcing them into labor.

“Some children may not be forced into work, but they are deprived of education and healthinfo-icon, they may face mental health problems,” he said.

The AIHRC accused border police forces in Torkham Township for using children for taking money from truckers. Pajhwok tried to contact Nangarhar border police officials, but failed.

Religious scholars believe forcing a child into labor is against Islamic teachings. Mualvi Mohammad Ghani Faroqi, an Islamic scholar, said Islam even did not oblige children into worship until their physical ability reached a certain level.

“Prophet Mohammad (SAW) did not allow children to take part in holy wars or keep fast. He also did not emphasis on children’s worship of God, because the children’s ability is weak,” he said.

mds/ma

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