Children for sale [Archives:2004/775/Community]

September 23 2004

By Abdulwahab Al Sofi
[email protected]
For the Yemen Times

It is a new phenomenon that appears in our society nowadays, but which we had never before heard about. I am talking about the phenomena of child kidnapping. To me, it is perplexing and almost unbelievable. Many tales pertaining to this atrocious crime are worthy of consideration.
News about this has scattered from various narrated sources. When I first heard about it, I was overcome with doubt. Was this news real or something that came from someone's imagination? But, meeting my friend – a victim of this new practice – confirmed to me that it was not imagined nor was it merely an issue of emigration. He was mind was so preoccupied that he was unable to narrate his calamity in detail, it was as if his tongue was tied. “The cowards kidnapped my son”, he said, tears were pouring from his eyes, but he couldn't stop them. “Who did?” I asked, “A gang”, he answered.
It seems that a group of people practice this new 'career'. They kidnap children and blackmail the parents for their child's safe return. However, “Often parents don't receive their sons”, informed the criminal investigator who accompanied the father to the place they had agreed. Afterwards, the kidnapper told the father that his son had been smuggled into Saudi Arabia. The kidnappers use these children as sellable commodities – without even having to pay customs duties! These gangs smuggle our children to neighboring countries and then they sell them or use them for begging. Is that to say that in Yemen we have an overabundance of children? I don't think so, we are a conservative society in which the family unit is still strong and stable. However, there are abnormal cases which force us to ask questions. Why are these children wandering the streets in the burning sunshine? They are either begging or selling snack foods or commodities. I approached some of these child victims to discover what condemned them to the streets. Each case reveals a tragedy. The main reason is often poverty. Let me narrate to you two individual cases that I have come across. They are two situations that represent many others. The first boy approached me and directly exhibited his commodity. First, he gave me a smile, hoping that I'd buy from him. His smile convinced me to buy a pen, as a dozen pens was all he had. His smile widened when he saw my acceptance. After I had bought the pen, my curiosity evoked many questions. “Do you go to school?”, I asked. “Yes, of course I go to school”, he said proudly, “I work in the morning and go to school in the evening”, he added. I asked him about his father. He told me that his father is unwell and unable to move. “Have you any elder brothers?” I asked. “No I have five sisters, the oldest one is ten years old.” he answered. Another little boy with an innocent face was carrying, on his head, a large plate filled with home-made bread (Lahoh). He was distressed and weeping so that tears were clearly running down both of his reddish cheeks. He implored me to give him hundred YR as he couldn't sell his bread (Lahoh) as he had dropped it, and it had been spoiled by the sand on the road. He refused to go back home without any money. He was just a little boy in a family consisting of seven sisters and himself, all of them are under ten years old. Their father escaped to the village and left them in the city with their mother, as he could not afford their food. She was obliged to send her children outside the home in search of food.
Evidently, some poor families prefer, (or have no choice but), to close their eyes only to find themselves without children when they open them. They don't hate their children, but they are struggling to afford their food, and to heal their wounds. Hunger and disease never show mercy. Thus, some parents release their children to alleviate their poverty problems, and some of them abandon them to fend for themselves.
I hope Allah will not excuse those who are responsible for, but who abuse our society. Our government should pay full attention to children, who are completely neglected. We have a ministry for social affairs, which does not care about children at all, despite the fact that children are the seeds of our nations future. That's why, the ministry of social affairs should double its efforts to fight poverty and improve children's schooling. Moreover, our government established a so-called 'child's parliament' to support and help children, not to ignore them. It is ridiculous that this parliament has not been able to help children who are exposed to hunger, poverty, misery and illiteracy if – as it is claimed – it represents all children in Yemen. Or was this parliament established only to show the outward appearance of democracy? Those responsible have no obvious concern either for the grieving impoverished parents or their kidnapped children.