The President of the International Council of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) and author of the book ‘Human Trafficking’ has sought out brick factories near Lahore, Pakistan where slaves working under the most degrading conditions are producing bricks.
“I have seen lot of evil in the world, but this truly belongs among the worst,” stated Schirrmacher afterwards. In particular, it shocked him that little girls copy their mothers by crawling over the bricks formed by their fathers and turn them over to dry from morning until evening. Instead of being allowed to go to school, they grow up with a notion that this is true life. For this reason, there are not even any guards since the slaves would not run away anyway.
Slaves are almost exclusively so-called Dalits, which used to be called casteless or untouchables. Most are Hindus or Muslims. However, many are also Christians. The latter experience double discrimination, according to Schirrmacher, because in the midst of the degrading slavery they are often raped by Muslim slaves and in any case by slaveholders and are accused of blasphemy, tortured, and killed.
The Pakistani lawyer Aneequa Anthony, chairman of the Pakistani partner organization to the International Society for Human Rights, “The Voice,” showed Thomas und Christine Schirrmacher and Michaela Koller, religious freedom specialist of the ISHR, the location where in 2014 a married couple were thrown alive into a brick oven. Anthony is representing the three orphans in court. The ISHR and the Bonn aid organization Giving Hands (Gebende Haende gGmbH) support the efforts of the lawyers’ association, which does advocacy work for religious minorities in Pakistan.
Slavery in Pakistan
According to the Australian Walk Free Foundation and its annual Global Slavery Index (2016), there are 45.8 million slaves worldwide. 58% of all slaves live in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. All are in the region of and around Pakistan. The highest percentage of slaves are found in North Korea (4.373%), Uzbekistan (3.973%), Cambodia (1.648%), India (1.403%), and Qatar (1.356%).
Along with 15 other Western democracies (above all Western Europe, USA, New Zealand), Germany take the best spot of countries with the lowest percentage of slaves. Brazil takes this spot in the Global South and is in the group of those countries which take second place with a percentage of 0.078%.
According to this index, 1.13% of the population of 188,925,000 people living in Pakistan are slaves. This results in a number of 2,134,900. There are also various other sources where the number of slaves in Pakistan is estimated at 2 million.
In 1990 the Supreme Court decided in the case Darshan Mashih vs State (1990) that bonded labor was forbidden and not compatible with the Constitution of Pakistan. From that came the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1992). However, almost nothing has changed since that time.
The main problem is that the interlaced system of owner/entrepreneurs is protected via subcontractors by the local courts and the police, and this applies all the way down to how slaves are dealt with. The police incarcerate slaves who flee or protest and allow the existence of private prisons.
It is typical that even relatively small lent amounts of, for example, $75 can never be repaid. Rather, the amounts lead to lifelong dependency, indeed a situation that can be passed on to children who then remain slaves. This is the case even though passing on such debts is prohibited by law.
There are such slaves in carpet-weaving, agriculture, but most frequently in the case of brick production taking place in the areas surrounding all large cities in Pakistan. As a result, a family has to produce 1,000 bricks per day by hand. Every lacking or broken brick is deducted from the wage. Business owners purchase remote pieces of property having the necessary sludge and where the bricks formed can be stacked into larges ovens. Slaves live on these properties under miserable conditions and naturally have to pay rent.
There are other crimes which occur in the vicinity of slavery. At a young age, children have to help with the work and are not able to attend school. Child mortality is high, above all on account of dirty drinking water. I have seen children of preschool ages who crawl next to their mothers the entire day and turn over brick by brick so that drying takes place and think that this is what life consists of.
Girls and women are mostly unprotected game and are raped by the businessmen/owners and their contract staff as well as often being raped by other slaves. The same also occurs at the hands of police and other prisoners in miserable low level (class “C”) jails.
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- Photo 1: Slaves explain to Schirrmacher the daily routine © BQ / Warnecke
- Photo 2: Brick factory with chimney © BQ / Warnecke
- Photo 3: Female slaves: Mother and daughter turning bricks all day © BQ / Warnecke
- Photo 4: The only drinking water available for the slaves is very dirty © BQ / Warnecke
- Photo 5: Here a Christian couple of slaves was burned alive: Michaela Koller (IGFM), Aneeqa Anthony (The Vocie) © BQ / Warnecke
- Photo 6: Where the slaves are living © BQ / Warnecke
- Photo 7: Handing over a brick produced by slaves to Pope Francis. From the left: Michaela Koller, Aneeqa Anthony, Thomas Schirrmacher, Pope Francis © Osservatore Romano. If you would like to publish the picture, please ask at firstname.lastname@example.org for picture 224537_22062016.jpg, which is also available at http://www.photovat.com.
- A good article on slavery in Pakistan: Mehvish Muneera Ismail. „Bonded labour – modern-day slavery in Pakistan“. The Express Tribune October 2, 2017.
- Wikipedia entry on Slavery in Pakistan