Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders
Against Child Slavery.
Henry Holt, 1998
Across Pakistan, India and southern Asia, thousands
of children work as carpetmakers, brickmakers, silversmiths,
and cigarette (beedi) rollers under exhausting, brutal
conditions, working 12 hour days or more, exposed
to occupational dangers and often physical abuse.
As bonded laborers, they must work until the debt
for which they have been "sold," usually
by their families who are living in poverty, is repaid.
They earn so little, however, that most debts grow
larger rather than smaller over the years.
Susan Kuklin has written a consciousness-raiser and
a call to action for young readers as she tells the
story of one of these laborers, Iqbal Masih. She writes
of the horrors of child slavery and the dedication
of those who have worked within these countries to
free children from bondage.
Iqbal was sold into bondage at age 4 and freed at
age 10 by the actions of Pakistani activists calling
for enforcement of laws to free children in bondage.
At age 11, he received the Reebok Youth in Action
Human Rights Award for his own efforts to educate
others and free children still in bondage. When he
was 12, he was shot and killed under circumstances
that may or may not have been accidental.
Drawing on interviews with and articles about Iqbal,
conversations with those who knew him, and research
into child slavery and activist movements, Kuklin
has written a narrative both compelling and compassionate.
She places child slavery in an economic context by
chronicling the cycle of poverty that leaves families
dependent on the money that comes from selling
their children into bondage, and in a global context
by connecting products made by children in bondage
- especially carpets - to consumers in the United
States and other countries who purchase these lower-priced
Kuklin also acknowledges the West's own exploitation
of children as laborers during the industrial revolution
in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Above all,
she honors young adults' strong sense of justice and
compassion by empowering them to help make a difference
if they want to get involved. She offers inspiration
for activism by chronicling the efforts of students
at a Massachusetts middle school where Iqbal visited
in their efforts to raise awareness about products
made with child labor and to support the ongoing work
of activists in Pakistan to free and educate child
laborers. Included is a list of organizations and
individuals to contact for more information or to
get involved in supporting the work of anti-slavery