Shocking footage has emerged of Egyptian children being dressed in white ‘death shrouds’ in preparation for their ‘martyrdom’ by pro-Morsi families in a large demonstration at Rabaa al-Adaweya.
The children were heard chanting pre-rehearsed lines and were seen carrying posters that say “I am ready to die!” during a short march.
This is not the first time that such images have emerged, however media and government attention over the issue remains spotty, as debates over politics have quickly overshadowed social problems plaguing Egypt.
Under both international and local law, using children under 18 years as a tool for politics and placing these children at severe risk of death or injury is illegal.
With an impending dispersion by the government of the pro-Morsi demonstration at Rabaa al-Adaweya, it is evident that the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of children will be put at severe risk.
The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (a government department) has expressed concerns over the issue and has even labelled the use of children as a political tool “human trafficking.”
However, with a budget of 48 million Egyptian pounds ($US 6.85 million) and just 193 employees and due to current turmoil, the council lacks the necessary resource, and ability to take necessary steps to ensure that this child abuse is tackled.
As of yet, it does not appear that non-governmental organizations have attempted to tackle the use of children as a tool for politics by Morsi supporters. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Egypt, however, is well-equipped and has previously provided necessary humanitarian and technical assistance to ensure children and mothers in Egypt are well-cared for.
Meanwhile, the media (both local and foreign press) appear to be enamored by recent political unrest, and have largely avoided tackling social issues.
Foreign governments meanwhile are still debating on whether to label Egypt’s latest unrest as a “coup” or a “revolution,” with the US Government deciding to not decide at all.
Though Egyptian Streets cannot independently call on government, UNICEF, or others to help ensure that Egyptian children are kept safe form such abuse, concerned citizens of Egypt and the world can, by ensuring that this child abuse is reported to relevant authorities, including local and foreign government representatives, NGOs, and the media.
Update: UNICEF acknowledges reports of child exploitation by political groups
The following statement was released by UNICEF in response to outrage over ‘child abuse’ at demonstrations:
“UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports that children have been killed or injured during the violent confrontations in Egypt over recent days. Disturbing images of children taken during street protests indicate that, on some occasions, children have been deliberately used and put at risk of witnessing or becoming actual victims of violence. Such actions can have a long-lasting and devastating physical and psychological impact on children. We call on all Egyptians and political groups not to exploit children for political ends, and to protect them from any potential harm.”
UNICEF Egypt: http://www.unicef.org/egypt/contact.html
The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood – http://www.nccm-egypt.org/e61/index_eng.html
Full list of NGOs in Egypt can be found on the website of Child Rights International Network (CRIN): http://www.crin.org/reg/country.asp?ctryID=63&subregID