According to a video clip published by the state-run Asr Iran, child labors who work in the streets to earn meager amounts of money, are abused physically and sexually by municipality agents.
One of the labor child girls said, “Me and my two brothers were doing our homework and at the same time selling walnuts when municipal agents came and caught my two brothers. I told them, ‘what do you want to do with them?’ Then they caught me, too… They took off my older brother’s clothes and started beating him by sticks. My younger brother started crying. Simultaneously, they told me to polish their shoes, I said I won’t. Then they rubbed black polish on my face.”
A social worker said the child labors are also sexually abused in addition to being brutalized. “Two of the child labors who work on the intersection, were forced into a car by municipal agents. One of the agents told one of the girls to unbutton her clothes. This girl even told us that when she was taken to the police station, she was separated from other kids and forced to take off her clothes.”
Another one of the child labors talked about sexual abuse of her friend by municipal agents. She said, “One day, when I saw Sara, I asked her, ‘Why are you upset?’ She said municipal agents caught me and mistreated me… They pulled my scarf, and touched me. When I screamed, he stepped away. But when I went to the office of the municipality and told my story, they did not believe me. They said I was making up the story so that they would let me go.”
This is not the first time that the state-run media acknowledge to rape of child laborers.
The state-run Salamat News run by the official Iran newspaper published a report in 2017, which included some painful examples of sexual assault on deprived girl children and child laborers. The same story was also reported by the state-run Roknar website.
The report narrates the stories of girl children who are assaulted and raped since very young age due to poverty and addiction of their parents.
The report also cites Elham Fakhari, member of Tehran’s City Council, as saying that “sexual abuse is the greatest ailment among young scavenger children.”
In a shocking comment made in October 2018, in an interview with state-run Iran ISNA news agency, the managing director of the Tehran Social Services Organization, Reza Ghadimi, claimed that based on a survey of 400 child laborers, 90 percent of them are “molested.”
After his statement caused uproar, Ghadimi later backtracked, saying he was not referring to sexual abuse.
“By molesting, I did not mean sexual abuse of the working children. I meant child workers are left in the cold, outside in the streets, they are not fed properly, and their faces are painted black to attract pity,” Ghadimi said.
However, the daily Shahrvand reported it has an audio recording of Ghadimi’s initial remarks, in which he clearly states that 90 percent of child laborers are “sexually abused.”
Poverty at the root of Iran’s child labor problem
Iranian people are facing much social and economic crisis due to the devastating policies of the ruling regime. As the most vulnerable group, Iranian children are the first victims of this crisis. Iran Child labor is now a familiar scene in every city.
On October 13, 2018, state-run news agency ILNA published a report on Iran’s child labor. The report alerted to the moving figures of poor suburbanites and the situation of poor children.
The number of labor children are constantly growing, and at the same time, their average age of child labor is decreasing, according to the report.
“Economic crises and the degrading livelihoods of low-class families drive children into labor. Every day, we witness children under school age begging, peddling or even collecting garbage,” the report states.
While naming inflation as economic violence, the report says that the first victims of economic violence are children who must leave education to find any work in order to support their families.
Considering 19 million poor people live in 3,000 districts in suburbs of Iran’s cities, ILNA describes the situation as “poverty is taking its victims aggressively.”
According to UNICEF statistics from 2012, up to 11.4 percent of Iranian children are said to be doing some kind of illegal work. Although children under the age of 15 are forbidden from working by Iranian law, organized crime and poverty make their exploitation a reality.
Monopoly Behind Iran’s Child Laborers
Children’s rights continue to suffer in Iran. Forced by the country’s increasing poverty, they must abandon school and enter the labor market to help feed their families. The numbers of those deprived of their basic rights escalate, and the children are used as pawns for the political interests of Iran’s factions.
Unofficial statistics place the number of child laborers in Iran at around 7 million, many of whom homeless and vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse. They toil under dire working conditions in small workshops that have no surveillance, as they were exempted from Iran’s Labor Laws in the 90’s.
The exact numbers of these child laborers is unknown.
An Iranian children’s rights organization explains that one of the reasons for this social catastrophe is privatization and the monopoly of wealth and power in Iran. The Society to Aid Children At Risk issued a statement that was published by the state-run ILNA news agency. It read, “Privatization has always been accompanied by putting a price on once complimentary public services such as education and health.” According to the rights group, children are the most damaged by privatization because, “Not receiving a few months of wages is not just a simple payment delay, but the massacre of a family and the community.” The Society to Aid Children at Risk was referring to privatized companies like the Iran National Steel Group, in this statement, whose workers have months of unpaid wages.
The privatization policies of the Iranian government has led to recent labor protests in Iran. For instance, workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory in Shush and the Ahvaz National Steel Group went on strike to protest privatization policies which saw the ruin of both companies. The workers rallied for more than a month in the southern province of Khuzestan. Many were detained, and there were reports of prison torture. Many Ahvaz steelworkers are still in prison.
The government, who does not support the workers’ families, was also criticized by the rights group. The statement added that it was the government’s responsibility to put an end to the privatization of public and national capital so that more children were not deprived of their rights in Iran. “The lack of support for the families of workers, who suffer from difficult circumstances, low pay or are on the verge of unemployment, puts their children in harm’s way including deprivation, poverty, addiction, illness, malnutrition, prostitution, delinquency, forced labor, work on the streets or other dangerous places, and the early marriage of girls.”