Iqbal Masih

A Bullet Cant Kill a Dream - Iqbal Masih by howsthat.
A Bullet Cant Kill a Dream - Iqbal Masih by howsthat.
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mister-t/1367084485/

Background Information
Iqbal Masih was one of the youngest child labour activists who sacrificed his life for the freedom of children in Pakistan. Born in 1982 from Saif Masih and Inayat Bibi, he as well as many other siblings were born and raised in the small village of Muridke near the well known town of Lahore, Pakistan. Iqbal's mother, Inayat, earned a living as a housecleaner. His father, Saif Masih, was a labourer but unfortunately wasn't a very reliable wage earner due to an addiction to drugs. Sometime after Iqbal's birth, Saif abandoned the family.
In 1986, Saif’s eldest son was to be married, yet the money for the preparations was something the family couldn’t easily afford. Traditionally, it was the father’s responsibility (whether or not they had deserted their family) to cover most of the expenses for their children’s marriage ceremonies. Iqbal’s uncle suggested they take a loan from a local carpet factory owner. The family negotiated a loan of 600 rupees (about 12 dollars). In return, Saif Masih was to give his loaner his most valuable possession. Saif obviously wasn’t the kind of man that had deep pockets. Ultimately, his children were his only valuable possession. With the shake of a hand the deal was done and Iqbal was in no position to do anything to alter the decision made by his father. At the age of 4, Iqbal became a “debt-bounded loaner”.
Influences
Iqbal was sent off to work in the carpet factory to pay off the loan his family owed the owner. Iqbal was to weave carpets six days a week, fifteen hours a day until he worked off the 600 rupee loan. He worked from 4 in the morning until 7 in the evening just to earn 1 rupee (about 2 cents) everyday. The conditions Iqbal, as well as many other children were forced to work in were brutal. They worked in an empty factory with no light, except for the two light bulbs that were available to supply the lighting for all employees while they worked.
The conditions these children were treated in were unfair and cruel. If they worked too slow they were lashed on their heads and backs with a whip. If they were sick, they were not allowed to take the day off to rest; instead they were locked up in a dark room until they got even more ill. For every mistake made they were punished (beaten) and fined. By the time Iqbal had turned 10, the loan had grown to 13 000 rupees (about 260 dollars).
Escape and Education
Iqbal knew the life he was working and living wasn't the life he had intended or wanted. He knew that one day he was going to have to leave this treacherous life of debt. He learned that the longer he stayed the more he would have to pay back his 'Master'.
At the age of 10, Iqbal decided that he had enough of this way of life and decided to do something about the mess he was in and escape. After work he left to attend a public meeting held by the BLLF (Bonded Labour Liberation in Front of Pakistan) and told them the conditions he was in everyday. He got the BLLF lawyer to write him a freedom letter to present to the carpet factory owner and from then on, all the other children working for him were freed.
Because of that accomplishment, Iqbal established a reputation throughout the world as a freedom fighter for children. He accomplished his goal to stop child labour and free kids by joining the BLLF group who helped him to spread his message worldwide. Iqbal was exposed and introduced to many children who had experienced the same difficult childhood he had experienced. He simply felt it was his duty to do everything he could to be a voice for those children who clearly could not speak or act for themselves. He was not very well educated but he knew how to read and write from the 5 semesters he finished in 2 years. His sister helped through his few years in the education system.
Accomplishments and Achievements
Iqbal Masih accomplished everything he could ever have done considering the position he was in. He was eventually murdered for standing up for what he thought was right, for children all over Pakistan and the world, for his and their freedom. There are many other people in the world who had heard about Iqbal's tragic death. Craig Keilburger, who had read about 12-year-old Iqbal who had fought against child labour was furious and knew something was to be done about tragic deaths like these. Craig was inspired and at the age of 12 in 1995 and had founded Free the Children. Iqbal Masih had definitely achieved his goal of bringing awareness of child labour around the world. It was because of him there are less children everyday who work in these 'factories'. The word 'less' would be considered right and sad. Right, because there are still thousands of children around the world still getting kidnapped, being traded to do the kind of work Iqbal had done. Sad, because it's true and even though the world's awareness is on this problem children still don't have that choice, they still get kidnapped, or need to help their families.
Death
On April 16th, 1995, Iqbal Masih was murdered at the age of 12. There are various different stories on how Iqbal died, but many people do believe the day Iqbal died he was heading over to visit his uncle with his two cousins after spending time with his mother and siblings on Easter day. Some believe that it was the 'Carpet Mafia' who had taken a shot at Iqbal while riding his bicycle and shot him dead. Others believe it was a drunken farmer who had shot Iqbal dead, as well as injure one of his cousins. Either way, the world lost a true leader - someone who had made a huge difference around the world, setting the children of labour free. He was someone who had stood up for what was right and what was wrong and had done so much about it. Iqbal was a 12-year-old boy who had saved more than 3 000 children just in Pakistan and saved even more throughout the world through his speeches. He made a difference; accomplishing more that an average person can ever do in such a short time. He set his mind for freedom and that's what he got, even better, he freed children while inspiring millions along the way. He will always be loved and remembered for what he has done.

Iqbal Masih Bibliography
Kuklin, Susan. Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery. Markham, Ontario: Fritzhenry and Whiteside LTD, 1998.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. Iqbal Masih: Biography of 10-Year-Old Activist. 2010. New York Times Company. January 7, 2010.
http://history1900s.about.com/od/1990s/a/IqbalMasih.htm http://history1900s.about.com/od/1990s/a/IqbalMasih_2.htm
January 6, 2010. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. January 8, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iqbal_Masih

By: Esbah Momin and Thulasi Jega