By Hamid Golpira

The phenomenon of runaway children is a very serious problem nowadays, but many of these children are not runaways at all, they are actually throwaways.

Throwaway is a term that was recently invented by social workers to describe young children and adolescents who are unwanted or rejected by their families.

And who are these throwaways?

They are not really children, although they could be classified as children according to their age, and they are not really old enough to be adults, although most of them are more mature than adults.

These street children are little people who have been denied a normal childhood.

They could be called quasi-adults.

In my travels around the world, I have seen many of these quasi-adult street kids.

With my own eyes, I have seen a seven-year-old street kid taking care of a five-year-old street kid. So they are also quasi-parents.

I have seen children 14 year olds -– and younger — who have been kicked out of their parents’ homes and who are fending for themselves in quite difficult circumstances.

I have seen children trying to study and go to school while living in a car.

Everyone who is indifferent to the plight of these children is an oppressor.

Many people say, “Their parents threw them away, their parents abandoned them, so their parents are responsible for the situation, not me.”

However, this argument does not hold water.

Yes, their parents did abandon them, but society also abandoned them, society also threw them away, so we are all responsible and we all must do something for them, since we are all members of society.

And if we don’t, we are committing a very serious sin.

And what kind of world is this anyway that throws away children?

It is a ruined world.

Is there no compassion, no empathy?

Is there no concern for the plight of these street kids?

People who have no compassion for abandoned little children have lost their humanity. So, let us do something for these throwaways before we all lose our humanity, and our souls


Iran street children rights, human rights

  Iran street children rights, human rights
Oct 30, 2007
Morteza Aminmansour

Street children are homelesss childrenn who live on the street � in particular, those that are not taken care of by parentss or other adultss. Street children live in abandoned buildings, containers, automobiles, parkss, or on the street itself. Tehran the largest city of IRAN has one of the highest rates of drug usage in the country. In addition to its social and economic consequences, drug use is emerging as a major contributor to HIV infection and AIDS in recent years. Relatively high oil prices in the last few years have enabled Iran to more than $30 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not eased economic hardships such as high unemployment and inflation. The proportion of the economy devoted to financing pro Iranian Group outside the country apparently Lebanese Hizbolah or others due to the Wrong policies of the government in IRAN. This Money could be used for funding kinder garden, schools or other facilities for training purposes of IRANIAN children.

There are reportedly significant numbers of children, particularly Afghan but also Iranian, working as street vendors in Tehran and other cities and not attending school because their parents are not able to pay the expenses. Recently the government representatives told the UN Committee on the Rights of the Children that there were less than 60 thousand street children in the country. Tehran has reportedly opened several shelters for street children but more shelters needed to be provided to accommodate all street children, shortage of funds and lack of planning is the major obstacle to serve these children. The government’s report on the rights of the children claimed seven thousand street children had been resettled to date.

The high level of literacy in Iran is the sign of progress (between 1996-2000) and the measures that was taken by the State to increase school enrolment and lower dropout rates needs to be appreciated, but it remains concerned that not all children are enrolled in or graduate from primary school (high inflation in the recent years by almost 16%yearly, declining the income, unemployment, prevented the parents from sending their children to schools). Working children, children living on the streets and children without complete personal documents, particularly refugee children with bi-national parents, have reduced access to schools (recently Iranian parliament passed a law which prohibits undocumented children attending the schools or have to pay high tuition for them and it is concerned that many of these immigrants are living on day to day bases and do not have steady income to pay for their children to go to schools. It is also concerned that refugee children are currently only being enrolled in schools if their parents have registered with the authorities as mentioned, and that the enrolment of refugee children comes from the pocket of these parents. It is further concerned about well-documented information that a large number of Baha’i students were not admitted to school on the grounds of their religious affiliation.

The concerned about the large number of children living and/or working in the streets, particularly in urban centers such as Tehran, Isfahan, Mashad, and Shiraz. It regrets that the State party could not present studies on the extent and nature of the problem and is concerned that the centers known as "Khaneh Sabz", "Khaneh Shoush" and "Khaneh Reyhane" homes, which were established to assist these children, albeit in a limited capacity, have been closed down because of the lack of funding. It is equally concerned at reports of the round-up and arrest of Afghan children in the streets (government is concern about the safety of the children) despite the fact that they were registered with the authorities, and that as a "condition" for their release the authorities request that their parents register for repatriation.

It is reports that Tehran has 35,000 to 50,000 children forced by adults mostly parents or closed relative to live and beg on the street or to work as slave laborers in sweat shops. The death rate among street children is high, from 100 to 150 a month. The cause of their deaths varies from malnutrition to diseases brought on by unsanitary conditions and the government is helpless fighting these criminal activities. Also the adults who exploit the children often train them for criminal activities, including selling illegal drugs and alcohol or providing them to others for sexual activities.

Most of these street children who were rounded up from the streets of Tehran by the authorities, according to the head of Social Service in the Iranian capital�s town hall. The majority of these children had run away from their homes to escape social pressures (because the parents lost jobs, addicted to drugs or involved in illegal activities).

Lot of these children make it only to big cities (Mashad, Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz) to end up in situations as poor as those that they left their homes. Typically, this type of children are in the age of 10 to 18 years old with many siblings and a mother who earns a living by washing clothes, cleaning homes for very low paid jobs (because they do not have any skills) sending heir children out to sell small goods or other products. Often abused within the family crises by family members or outside by strangers, increasing numbers of these children look elsewhere for support without any chances. With no papers or any other kind of documents and little money, they are easily transformed into street children and criminal activities.

It is recommended that The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran establish an independent entity accountable to parliament, such as an ombudsman, to monitor the observance of children’s rights. It will play a very important role in promoting a culture of respect for human rights in Iranian society and will achieve considerable progress in improving awareness of human rights issues among the general public Services should be also provided for children with special needs, aimed at integrating them into their families and society and developing their abilities to the fullest extent possible. Programs for vulnerable children should be aimed in particular at raising awareness of the problems of child abuse, drug abuse and exploitation, at returning street children to their families and at providing expert opinions concerning the best interests of the child to judges hearing divorce cases.

The prostitution of children also has surfaced as a matter of concern. In 2000, Iranian authorities closed down six brothels in Tehran and arrested 35 people, including some minors. Every day, an average of 45 Iranian girls (Mostly under 18) run away from home to escape poverty, abuse, and social imprisonment. Though some are picked up by the police and brought to welfare organizations, many falls into the hands of organized prostitution rings or drift into crime and the sex trade (they were transported to other countries such as UAE for rich Arabs or to Afghanistan and Pakistan to work as prostitutes; some simply disappear. Police in Tehran reportedly round up 90 runaway children every day in average, and as of September 2001, more than 900 girls and 700 boys (the age between 10-18) were reported to have fled their homes in Tehran. Often times, the young runaways are raped or even killed by criminal Gangs in Tehran. According to some recent reports, one young woman in Tehran is raped and murdered every 6 days, as criminals increasingly take advantage of runaways children.

More shelters needed to help these children to provide a place where the child can sleep
and be fed. But it is not always easy to persuade the children to give up their previous existence. Street life is basic, harsh, and unpleasant. But the groups to which the children belong become substitute families and provide them with a basic level of comradeship and security. They do not adapt easily to the requirements of a more ordered and social environment. However the staff there are now loved and respected by the children.

We should come to the conclusion that:
Recognizing that all children have the right to health, shelter, and education, to an adequate standard of living and to freedom from violence and harassment, the growing number of street children worldwide and the squalid conditions in which these children are often forced to live, as we know:

That children are a particularly vulnerable section of society whose rights require special protection and that children living under especially difficult circumstances, such as street children, deserve special attention, protection and assistance from their families and communities and as part of national efforts and international cooperation among the civilized nations.

Iran’s daily "Dowran Emrooz"
The General Assembly of UN
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In Iran, a generation of street kids hustles to survive

In Iran, a generation of street kids hustles to survive
Thousands fall through the cracks and get little help as traditional support systems fray.
By Kim Murphy, Times Staff Writer
5:14 PM PDT, April 21, 2007

— Atefeh is one of the younger members of Iran’s merchant class. Her sales territory is the notorious traffic jams of north Tehran. She moves in on potential clients when the light turns red, pressing her face to car windows, cocking her head to one side and putting on a plaintive face.

At 12, she isn’t as good at plaintive as some of her younger competitors, two boys who are hawking Koranic inscriptions and balloons just up the street. Sometimes her face looks more furious than sad. But she still can clear 55 cents a day selling her packages of pink-and-red strawberry chewing gum to bored and surly drivers.

A decade ago, street children were rare in Iran, with its long traditions of charity for the poor, government aid programs and strong family connections. No more.

Nongovernmental organizations estimate that the number of street children in Iran, officially listed at 60,000, has grown in recent years to 200,000 or more. Many of them are the offspring of Afghan refugees. Others come from Iranian families who have slipped, through unemployment, drug addiction or illness, into the populous ranks of the urban poor.

Social activists say high unemployment, ballooning inflation and misdirected government subsidies have left many families unable to support themselves without turning to their children to help with earnings. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected two years ago on a pledge to deliver Iran’s oil wealth back to the nation’s dining tables, has done little so far to improve the lot of Tehran’s poorest families.

"In the early days of the revolution, I remember the slogan was, ‘Welfare, food and health for everyone,’ " said Bahram Rahimi, director of training at the Children’s House of Shoosh, a school in south Tehran that provides part-time instruction to street children too busy working or too poor to attend normal schools. "Now everyone understands that privatization is the name of the game."

Although the government has generally made inroads in reducing the poverty rate, rapidly rising prices have reversed many of the gains, and sociologists estimate that 16 million Iranians live in poverty.

The Children’s House stands in the middle of a commercial block in one of the most crowded districts of Tehran.

Inside, its corridors are lined with cheerful, hand-painted murals and its classroom chairs are arranged in haphazard clusters, testimony to a young clientele unaccustomed to sitting still in neat rows.

About 55% of the city’s street children are offspring of the estimated 1.5 million refugees who have flooded into Iran from Afghanistan in waves over the last 20 years, school officials say, and many of the rest are children of single parents, mixed-nationality families or Gypsies. Many come from the growing number of families beset by drug addiction as heroin shipments across the Afghan border have multiplied since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Rahmatollah Sedigh Sarvestani, a sociology professor at the University of Tehran, said the number of drug addicts in Iran, officially listed at 1 million, is more likely closer to 3 million, with the number of users possibly as high as 6 million.

"We don’t have enough job opportunities for people. We are facing, even after the revolution, class differentiation, inequality in income, wealth and power. So there are good reasons to have so many addicts, and every other social deviancy," Sarvestani said. "This is everywhere. Not just here and there. Everywhere."

Atefeh, who was afraid to give her last name, is a dark, slight girl who looks much younger than 12. She moved with her family to Tehran from the Caspian Sea region several years ago. She began selling chewing gum on the street two years ago, when her father became ill and had to be hospitalized. There was little choice: Her mother had been killed in a car accident several years earlier; her 10-year-old brother lost his legs not long ago when he chased a soccer ball into the street and was struck by a car.

"After that happened, he became mad, and they’re giving him some pills to try to prevent his madness, but now he’s left," Atefeh said. "My father told me, ‘Don’t worry, let him alone, he’s mad.’ But we don’t know where he is, and now every day when I wake up, my father tells me, ‘Go into the street and find him.’ "

Atefeh works all morning and early afternoon hawking gum, then washes dishes and cooks at a neighbor’s house later in the day. She gives her earnings to her father.

"My father told me, ‘After I’m well, I will pay you back,’ " she said. "He’s better now, but he’s not working yet. He says he’s going to start working in two or three days."

At the other end of town, brothers Hossain and Ahmadi Jabrali-Nejar, 17 and 15, sell flowers and bottles of children’s bubbles to passing drivers because their family depends on their earnings.

"My parents are too old to work. My mom is 52, my father is 60. I finished junior high school, and after that my parents prevented me from going to school anymore. They need me to be the breadwinner," said Hossain, who works the street from 8 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. most days.

"It’s not bad," Ahmadi said. "It’s better than being a thief or a robber."

The Children’s House is operated by the Iranian Society for Protecting the Rights of the Child, a project of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

"The number of street children in Iran is increasing," Ebadi said. "The school is part of my plan to supervise and parent these kinds of street children. We train them and we educate them, we provide them with medical treatment, and we have a social worker who works with them."

The school offers the basics of reading and writing, but first comes instruction in what administrators call the "survival skills" that might enable a 10-year-old to negotiate the perilous hierarchy of the Tehran marketplace.

"We teach them survival of the fittest, how to survive in the streets," said Javid Sobhani, a children’s rights activist who works at the school. "Part of these survival skills might be communication skills. As a seller and buyer, they may be manipulated or abused by gang leaders. Some of these children are hired out for eight, 10, 12 hours as professional beggars. We teach them how to deal with these horrible abusers."

Other lessons help children fend off sexual abuse. "The adult men who are operating kiosks in the street see the children as competition, and they may sexually abuse them. This is a way of grooming them. To show them who is the boss," Sobhani said. "And because of their emotional problems, these children are often very emotional, and emotionally they can be easily manipulated. So we teach them to have self-control."

There are lessons in using the buddy system to ward off attackers, in staying warm during Tehran’s snowy winters, and in simple technical skills to encourage safer means of earning money.

The school gets little help from the government and none from the clerical establishment.

"Not only do we not receive any support from the established religious hierarchy, it’s just the reverse," Rahimi said. "Three months ago, one female member of parliament was quoted in a newspaper as saying that promoting the rights of the child is actually promoting the Western humanism ideology, which is contradictory to Islam."

Shala, a 17-year-old Gypsy who started selling gum and matches on the street when she was 9, took sewing classes at the Children’s House and now earns her living as a housekeeper.

Yalda, 15, began helping her father sell handicrafts on the street when she was 6. At 8, she went to work for a woman in the bazaar, selling lingerie. After four years, she went back to work with her father, this time making their own crafts at home — melting fluorescent lightbulbs into the shape of apples for sale as home decor.

"I’m happy to do it, because my father works too hard. Sometimes he gets up at 4 a.m. to work, and I would like to see that he has a kind of comfortable life," Yalda said. "But it’s hard. I used to regret especially when I’d see students going to school. I’d want to cry. I’d want to be going with them."

Iran: Street Children Receive Limited Help (Part 2)

Iran: Street Children Receive Limited Help (Part 2)

By Azam Gorgin/Charles Recknagel

Recent reports in the Iranian press that 100 to 150 of the country’s street children die each month have shed new light on the plight of small children who are forced to work on the streets. In the second of a two-part series on Iran’s street children, RFE/RL correspondent Azam Gorgin tells how one charitable group tries to aid the children.

Prague, 7 December 2000 (RFE/RL) — Iran’s street children get little help from the government, but they can come to centers run by a handful of charitable organizations.

The most active is the Society for Protecting Rights of the Child, or SPRC, which has a program for some 300 street children in poverty-stricken neighborhoods of southern Tehran.

Mahvash Taghavi of the society told our correspondent that the group offers the street children a free meal once a week. That is always on Fridays because the children’s’ parents or other adults who control them force them to work the rest of the week. Taghavi says:

"These children are put to work by their parents and they do not come to the center the other days of the week. But we are trying to establish a file for them and trying to find out about the background of these kids." Taghavi says the street children come to the center hungry. The center’s volunteers feed them and then try to train them in the rudiments of hygiene and to provide them with elementary school materials, such as notebooks and pencils.

Another SPRC member, Shirley Najafi says that the group used to go out to look for the children and bring them to the center. But now, she says, the children mostly come by themselves.

"We used to collect them and find their homes, and organize classes for them, but now they come to us. At times these kids have not eaten for more than two days. And they really appreciate everything we can give them. The kindness they see from our social workers — in some cases they have not experienced any respect or kindness before in their lives. So, they are attracted."

But the SPRC’s staff says that their resources for helping the street children are very limited. The group is allowed to use two classrooms in a state-run vocational school, but it depends mostly on contributions from well-meaning individuals. Founded five years ago, the society is run by seven managers, plus volunteers.

Our correspondent asked Najafi if the SPRC has also sought help from groups abroad. She said:

No, but friends of the society who are living abroad — people who have heard somebody recommend us, or who have received our news bulletin — try to give us something. We started this seven months ago, but nothing substantial has been received yet. Until now, we have only utilized aid from what we receive daily from people."

Those who work with the street children say they hope one day to also receive financial help from the Iranian government. But so far, official interest in the street children has mainly been confined to trying to curb petty crime.

The government funds reformatories — known as "Green Houses" — which hold youngsters, street children and others, who have committed crimes or misdemeanors. The daily newspaper "Iran" reported recently that Tehran authorities operate five such houses and are preparing 17 more.

In the Green Houses, the children undergo therapy with psychologists and most are then sent to their parents. But once the children return to the street, they often go back to petty crime, repeating the cycle.

Najafi says part of the problem she faces is raising public awareness about the street children, a first step to getting the government and other agencies to solve the crisis.

"Unfortunately, nothing fundamental has been done about this in Iran. There are no accurate statistics and there are only individual efforts, not a widespread effort. When we started SPRC, we thought of aiding 30 to 40 kids but now there are 300 in this vocational center."

Najafi says that her society wants to build a house for street children but that this requires funding which is beyond the means of small groups such as the SPRC. She says that government authorities must also participate in a collective effort to help keep, educate and train the street children if they are ever to have a normal life.

Iran: Needy Youngsters Live On City Streets

Iran: Needy Youngsters Live On City Streets

By Azam Gorgin/Charles Recknagel

Recent reports in the Iranian press that 100 to 150 street children die each month have shed new light on the plight of small children who are forced to work on the streets. In part one of a two-part series on Iran’s street children, RFE/RL correspondent Azam Gorgin describes the children’s plight and efforts to help them.

Prague, 7 December 2000 (RFE/RL) — Iran’s daily "Dowran Emrooz" reported last month that Tehran has 25,000 to 30,000 children forced by adults to live and beg on the street or work as slave laborers in sweat shops.

The paper said the death rate among street children is high, from 100 to 150 a month. The cause of their deaths varies from malnutrition to diseases brought on by unsanitary conditions.

In other Iranian cities, the plight of street children also makes headlines. The daily "Ghods" wrote recently that in the western city of Arak there are enough children aged 6 to 15 begging on the streets to obstruct
both passenger and car traffic.

Our correspondent called a group in Tehran which aids street children to learn more about their lives and what resources are available to help them.

Shirley Najafi of the Society to Protect the Rights of the Child says that the parents of many of the street children are drug addicts. She says others are jobless immigrants, and still others give birth to numerous children simply to exploit them for work.

"Some of these families give birth to these children for sheer exploitation to work for them, or some are Afghani immigrants with the excuse that these kids don’t have birth certificates and cannot go to school, and so they send them to work on the street. Some are from Bangladesh, and they are all over Iran."

Najafi’s society — a charitable organization supported largely by contributions from ordinary citizens — seeks to help the children by providing them with meals and vocational training. That puts her in daily contact with the children and the scope of their problems.

Najafi said she considers the children who sleep on cardboard on the sidewalks, in parks, or in vacant and dilapidated buildings to be luckier than those who remain at home with exploitative parents. "We have cardboard sleepers, some have families, but I think those cardboard sleepers are better off than those with families because the [parents are] addicts and they usually have a very small, dark and damp room and terrible living conditions."

Najafi says the children usually are forced by their parents into begging. But some children are brought to Tehran by traffickers who have rented them, or kidnapped them, from rural families to put them to work as beggars or menial laborers.

Najafi says that smaller children often are put together with older ones and taken in a group to places throughout Tehran, including the wealthier northern districts, to collect money from passers-by. If they don’t collect enough, they are punished.

"These kids are scattered all over the place, on the northern streets of Tehran, too. Sometimes they are put together with kids of 8 and 10 years of age, and are put to work to beg in the streets. They have to collect money and then go home. Otherwise they are beaten, burned or subjected to other physical punishment."

The adults who exploit the children often train them for criminal activities, including selling illegal drugs and alcohol. Much of that activity goes on in one of Tehran’s poorest areas, known as Davarzeh Ghar. Najafi says: "We have children who have been trained to buy and sell narcotics. These kids pass on drugs and alcoholic beverages and get involved themselves. In the park of Davarzeh Ghar there is every possibility for these children to move toward crime. Until now nobody has been able to overcome this problem. And, we at [our society] are trying to ask responsible organs to help with the situation, but our capabilities are very limited."

Statistics about the fate of the children — such as how many die from disease or neglect — are hard to confirm. But Najafi, who works with the children closely, says that the death rate is three to four each day. That coincides with newspaper accounts of 100 to 150 deaths a month.

She also says that estimates of the street children population in Tehran could be higher than is often reported in newspapers.

"The statistic I hear is about 25,000, but I think there are more."

Social workers say the children’s plight is aggravated by the fact that the government provides little help to them. One reason is the government’s limited resources for dealing with social problems in general, due to a weak economy and double-digit unemployment. Another is that many of the children are from immigrant families who are not citizens and so are not a priority.

That leaves the task of helping the children in the hands of charitable individuals and groups. But they say they are overwhelmed by the problem and can only do a small bit to help — as we will see in the second part of this series.

Tehran home to 25,000 street children

Tehran home to 25,000 street children

Iran – Thursday 10 August 2000
Agence France Presse

TEHRAN, Aug 10 (AFP) – Twenty-five thousand child squatters, most of them girls, live on the streets of Tehran, where growing drug use and prostitution are leading to a social crisis, a member of the Iranian parliament said Wednesday.

"Social ills such as (drug) addition and runaway girls will someday plague us all," MP Shahrbanu Amani told a conference of provincial social welfare officials, as quoted by the IRNA state news agency.

Amani warned of the consequence of social inequalities on the young, calling "the unfair distribution of wealth" the main culprit of Iran’s social ills.

Tehran’s press in recent weeks has been focusing on the plight of runaway girls, which it calls "an appalling reflection of the nation’s social and economic situation."

The government-run newspaper Iran charged Tuesday that two decades of incomplete attention to the problem were to blame, warning that the social crisis threatened the very fabric of the Iranian family.

"Parental abuse, divorce, addiction, forced marriages and social disregard for the young are the main reasons why girls run away from home," the paper said.

The state daily warned that many girls, lured with the promise of better lives, leave the country and wind up either in virtual slavery or as the prey of organ traffickers.

In July, Mohammad-Ali Zam, head of Tehran’s cultural and artistic organization, reported on alarming trends in the Iranian youth.

"Drug addiction is the rage among schoolchildren. Prostitution has increased 635 percent among high school students and the rate of suicide in the country has exceeded the record by 109 percent" in the years 1998 and 1999, the cleric said.

Zam added that divorce is on the rise and that the average age of prostitutes has dropped to 20 years old, compared with 27 a few years ago.

The Iranian population, estimated at 62 million, is one of the world’s youngest, with 35 million people under the age of 20.

Iran is a major passing point for drug traffickers, connecting drug-producing countries — particularly Afghanistan — with the markets of the Gulf and Europe.

About 250 tonnes of opium and its derivatives are seized each year by Iranian security forces.