Iqbal Masih

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Iqbal Masih.jpg

Iqbal Masih

Iqbal Masih was a young boy from Pakistan who inspired Craig Kielburger to form the child and youth organization called Free The Children.

Free The Children was founded by 12-year-old Craig Kielburger in 1995 when he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labour. Today, Free The Children is the world's largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million young people involved in our programs in 45 countries. In April 1995, looking for the comics section of his local newspaper, 12-year-old Craig Kielburger came across an article which forever changed his life. The piece featured the photo of a boy in a bright red vest, his fist clenched defiantly in the air, Intrigued, Craig read the story of Iqbal Masih, a young boy from Pakistan, who was sold into slavery to work in a carpet factory. Iqbal Masih was born in South Asia and sold into slavery at the age of four. In his short life, he had spent six years chained to a carpet-weaving loom. Iqbal captured the world's attention by speaking out for children's rights.

Iqbal worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, tying tiny knots to make hand-made carpets for export. Through luck and bravery, he managed to escape from his life of captivity and began speaking out about children's rights; educating eager listeners about child labour. Tragically, after reuniting with his family, Iqbal was shot and killed by those who wished to silence him. Iqbal lost his life for defending the rights of children. 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.

Before he read Iqbal's story, Craig had never heard of child labour. He wasn't even certain where Pakistan was, but the differences between his life and that of Iqbal shocked him. Craig knew that he had to help. He gathered together a small group of his Grade 7 classmates and Free The Children was born.

The following year, in an attempt to focus the world's attention on the epidemic of global child rights abuses, Craig embarked on an ambitious fact-finding mission to South Asia. In a press conference held in Delhi, India, Craig challenged the world to take notice of the stories and voices of child labourers everywhere. The media buzz that ensued brought the issue of child labour to the forefront of global debate. Craig's journey, sparked by Iqbal's heroic tale, proved that young people have the power to make a difference in the world.

Today, Free The Children is a children's charity unlike any other in the world. It is an organization funded and driven by the energy of young leaders and adult supporters. In a cooperative effort, we are changing the world.[1]


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  1. Free the Children.