Monday, October 9, 2016
On 19 December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 66/170, declaring 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child. The main objective of this resolution was to draw attention to the serious issues facing this young segment of the society.
Following this initiative, work started in earnest on compiling a comprehensive and analytic report on laws regarding the human rights of young girls in five areas of education, safety, labour, early and forced marriage and health and hygiene. The research produced a report which was published in 2015. A review of the report’s findings makes it abundantly clear that all Iranians should make greater efforts to fully understand the legal challenges and their various ramifications that are impacting children and particularly young girls.
Part of this research project was centred around speaking to children.
To mark the fifth anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child, Kayhan-London, in cooperation with Persia Educational Foundation, has published a number of these conversations which shed light on the daily lives of children.
Conversation with Najmeh
Q – What is your name?
A – Najmeh, Najmiyeh, Najibeh.
she didn’t know what her true name was. She is registered as “Najmeh” on their pink resident permit.
Q – How old are you?
A- 12 years old.
Q- Where are you from?
Q- Do you go to school?
A- No.There are no Afghan schools where I and my family live. Also, schools don’t admit children without a resident permit.
Q- Do you have a resident permit?
A- Ours has expired.
Q- Are you parents alive?
A- My mother died six years ago from fever in pregnancy.
Najmeh’s mother died from puerperal fever, an infection usually contracted during childbirth. Najmeh’s parents were legally married.
Q- Are you living with your family?
A- Yes. I was living with my father and grandmother [her mother’s mother]. My grandmother died recently. My father plans to remarry.
Q- Does you have any siblings?
A- I have two older half-brothers ages 20 and 22. My oldest brother is married and has a child. His wife is not keen on having a relationship with our family. He works at a carpenter’s workshop.
Najmeh’s younger brother is an addict. He works as a guard at a factory. He visits the family once in a while. He is trying very hard to save money, so he can bring a wife from Afghanistan. Najmeh also has three younger blood brothers ages 6, 8 and 10.
Q- How many people are employed in your household?
A- My father.
Najmeh’s father works for contractors and city council as a gardener on various public sites. He lost a leg in a mine explosion in Afghanistan. He wears a prosthetic leg which gives him a lot of trouble, and it is also cracked. Najmeh and his younger brothers spend their time searching through trash bins. They look for plastic containers and any other useful item to sell. Once in a while, they also find food.
Najmeh is embarrassed to admit that sometimes one of her younger brothers steals from shops or that he begs in the street.She doesn’t like it but can’t stop her brother. And despite her physically punishing him, he continues to steal.
Q- Does anyone in the house smoke cigarettes, use drugs or hallucinogens?
A- Yes. my older half-brother.
Najmeh also worries about her younger brothers.There is a drug / crack house across the street from where they live which is visited by many addicts who go in and out of the place 24 hours a day. Her younger brothers are aware of what is happening in that place.
Q- Has anyone in you family ever been in prison?
Q- What is the distance between the house and where you and her your brothers go to search through trash bins?
A- One hour on foot.
Najmeh’s family live in Qebchaq village in Malard County, Tehran Province. She and her brothers walk everyday to Sarasiyab which is an underprivileged area just outside of Shahriar County.
Q- How many hours do you spend looking through trash bins?
A- 10 to 12 hours a day.
Q- How often do you eat during the day?
A- Our main meal is the dinner which we eat with our father.
Q- How do you find food? And what do you eat?
A- Whatever we can find. My favourite food is hamburger.
Najmeh doesn’t suffer from any major illness. But the family doesn’t have health insurance. It is clear that they wouldn’t able to shoulder any medical cost if there is a major health problem in the family. Her grandmother apparently had died from illnesses associated with old age. Her father needs a new prosthetic leg which is very expensive. He suffers from pain in his other leg, knee and back. He needs glasses as well.
Q- Do you exercise?
Q- Do you smoke cigarettes or use drugs ?
Q- Do you know anything about sexual abuse?
Najmeh is a beautiful girl. She is tall for her age. She has light colour skin, blue eyes and brown hair. It seemed as if she didn’t want to speak about what was on her mind. She mentioned, however, that she had many suitors, and hoped to marry soon. She didn’t know anything about menstruation.
Q- Do you ever get into a fight either at home or in the streets? Have you ever hit anyone?
A- Yes, both at home and in the streets. I fight with my brothers at home.
Najmeh says that her father flog them with his belt at least twice a week. She and her brothers look after each other in the streets. But no one interferes when they fight at home. Najmeh started looking through trash bins mostly because she wanted to get out of the house. Her father used to leave Najmeh and her grandmother at home and lock the door, and go out with his sons. But after the death of her grandmother, he felt that she would be safer outside the house and with her brothers.
Q- Does you share what you earn with your family?
A- No. Everyone keeps their daily earnings for themselves. I buy nail polish and headbands, but no one knows about it. I don’t have any savings.
Najmeh’s main fear is to have to deal with the police. They are more worried about their father than themselves. If arrested, Afghan men are taken to the boarder and from there they are sent back to Afghanistan. Recently, the father, uncle, brother and the grandfather of one of their friends were arrested, taken to the boarder and sent back to Afghanistan, leaving the women and children without guardians.
Q- How is your relationship with their other people who scour through the trash bins?
A- We try not to get into any disputes with the grown ups, because it can be very dangerous. For instance, we never check bins where fruits are dumped. We can get into a fight.
Q- Are you interested in learning a trade?
A- I would have liked to become either a beautician, or an actress or get married (as a job).
Before her father got a job as a gardener, Najmeh and her father used to live on a cattle farm. She used to help her father with that. Najmeh, however, would like to go to school, but the Afghan school is very far from them. Her father doesn’t allow it. She’d like to be a certified beautician.
Q- Have you ever had to spend the night outside you house? Do you know where to go if that happens?
Q- Have you ever been in jail?
Q- Are the migrants able to apply for a resident permit?
A- I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Their Afghan passports had expired. They had not been issued Iranian resident permits. It would appear that Najmeh and her family are subject to a different set of conditions for finding a jobs than those required from Iranians who are in the similar situation as her.- Najmeh has seen the discrepancy wherever her father worked. His employer would pay him less than other workers and wouldn’t provide insurance since he didn’t have a resident permit. He could also be fired at any time without a notice or severance pay. Najmeh and her brothers didn’t have that much competition in their line of work. But they suffered greatly at the hands of Iranian children who had ridiculed and humiliated them.