More about Iqbal Masih

Iqbal Masih

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Iqbal Masih (Urdu: اقبال مسیح) (b. 1983 – April 16, 1995), was a young Pakistani boy who was forced into bonded labour in a carpet factory at the age of five, became an international figurehead for the Bonded Labour Liberation Front at the age of 10 and was brutally murdered in 1995 at the age of 12 by being shot in the back with a twelve gauge shotgun.

Iqbal Masih was born in Muridke, a small, rural village outside of Lahore in Pakistan. Shortly after Iqbal’s birth, his father, Saif Masih, abandoned the family. Iqbal’s mother, Inayat, worked as a housecleaner, but found it difficult to make enough money to feed all her children from her small income.

Iqbal was sold as a child slave at the age of four for the equivalent of 12 USD. He was forced to work on a carpet loom in a small town called Muridke near Lahore, and was made to work twelve hours per day. Due to long hours of hard work and insufficient food and care, Iqbal was undersized. At twelve years of age, Iqbal was the size of a six-year old boy.

At the age of 10, he escaped the brutal slavery and later joined the BLLF (Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan) to help stop child labor around the world. Iqbal helped over 3,000 Pakistani children that were in bonded labour escape to freedom, and made speeches about child labour all around the world.

He was murdered on Easter Sunday 1995 in Muridke in the middle of a busy road. Some locals were accused of the crime but it is assumed by many that he was assassinated by members of the “Carpet Mafia” because of his famous fight against the child labour industry.

In 1994, Iqbal was awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award. In 2000, he was posthumously awarded The World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child.

Legacy

In January 2009, the United States Congress established the annual Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor.

Iqbal visited Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts and spoke to 7th graders about his life. When the students learned of his death, they decided to raise money and built a school in his honor in Pakistan.

Iqbal’s work and subsequent death inspired a 12 year old Canadian boy, Craig Kielburger to devote his life to Iqbal’s cause and organize Free The Children.

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