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Iranian child labor, sexual abuse on the rise: expert

iran child labor

An Iranian expert has warned that nearly a quarter of Iran's population is marginalized and that the process of children entering into jobs such as sales, labor, transportation and garbage collection is on the increase.

In an October 13 report on child labor in Iran, Hadi Shariati, a lawyer and child rights activist, warned about the shocking statistics regarding marginalized families and children of poor families in Iran.

While the report did not provide any statistics on child labor, there are other reports that about 2 million children are working in Iran, according to official statistics. However, unofficial reports show that there are upwards of 7 million children working in the country.

According to Shariati, the most important issue is the increasing number of child laborers in recent months and the change in the rate of their age.

Shariati added that the economic crisis hitting Iran and the low standard of living for the poor classes are the reasons for bringing young people into the labor market. Every day we find young children under the legal age working in jobs such as sales or garbage collection.

"The systematic economic violence that is being taught from the highest to the lowest in society affects the lives of disadvantaged, marginalized and poor families. In fact, the first victims of this violence are the children of these families who are forced by their constrained circumstances to leave education and eventually be brought into the labor market.

Shariati stressed that there are 3,000 marginalized areas and 19 million marginalized people in Iran, warning that poverty is expanding painfully in these areas.

Gathering up children

Last year, the municipality of Tehran, in its last action to combat child poverty, gathered up thousands of children and threatened their families, a move that sparked a wave of criticism at the time.

More than 300 university professors, researchers, social workers, lawyers, journalists and child rights activists accused the authorities in an open letter of dealing with child victims rather than dealing with poverty and its causes.

They called on government officials to provide financial resources in the country "to improve livelihoods and access to jobs, improve the lives of vulnerable groups at risk in society, and provide education and health for their children" instead of gathering up children and threatening their families.

Children are victims of Tehran’s "garbage mafia"

"Different types of child labor have been identified in Iran, from sales to working on poultry farms and brick-manufacturing plants," the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) wrote on April 24 about the misuse of children, adding, “Each type of child labor possesses its own difficulties and is considered forced labor, but one of the most difficult types of child labor is the collection and separation of garbage.”

Children collecting garbage collect the equivalent of 60 kilograms of trash a day and their places of residence are often waste-separation workshops, according to ILNA. The "workshops" used by municipal waste-disposal contractors are usually garages on the outskirts of the city without the most basic sanitation. Children in these places are exposed to a variety of infectious diseases.

Sexual abuse of children

Regarding the children residing at these waste-separation workshops, Elham Fakhari, a reformist member of Tehran’s city council, told ILNA, "Most of these children are suffering from diseases; however, the problem of diseases is not important compared to the other problems facing these children, because most of these children are sexually abused."