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    "Often, one comes along but for a brief moment and leaves us richer and better for it"


    When Iqbal Masih was 4 years old, his parents sold him into slavery for the equivalent of $12. For the next six, years, he remained shackled to a carpet-weaving loom most of the time, tying tiny knots hour after hour.
    He escaped at age 10 and began to speak out against child, travelling the world in his crusade against the horrors of child labour.

    On April 4, 1995, Iqbal was shot dead while he and two friends were riding their bikes in their village of Muritke, 35 kilometres outside the eastern city of Lahore. Iqbal Masih was 12 years old.

    Some believe his murder was carried out by angry members of the carpet industry who had made repeated threats to silence the young activist. "We know his death was a conspiracy by the carpet mafia," said Ehsan Ullah Khan, chairman of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), a private group that fights against child labour in Pakistan.

    Iqbal Masih, a Christian, was home from school in Lahore for the easter holiday. A man known only as Ashraf, a labourer in Muritke, was arrested in connection with the shooting, but has been released, Khan said. Rana Iqbal, deputy superintendent of police for the district, said yesterday he was investigating the shooting but had no details.

    The killing came only months after young Iqbal had attracted international attention.

    At a labor conference in Stockholm, Sweden, last November, he spoke about the horrible conditions faced by child workers, who toil for long hours in unsafe conditions and earn as little as one rupee - three cents - a day.

    "We had to get up at 4 and work 12 hours," Iqbal told the conference, barely tall enough at the time to peer over the podium. "We were chained to the looms, but after work, we were usually released and could go home to sleep."

    When he was 10, Iqbal contacted the BLLF and was able to escape from the factory. He still owes his boss 13,000 rupees - the equivalent of $419 - a huge sum considering he earned only one rupee a day. In December, Iqbal went to Boston to receive the Reebok Youth in Action Award from the American shoe company. At the time, Iqbal said he wanted to become a lawyer and would use the $15,000 prize money for school. Brandeis University in suburban Boston gave him a standing offer of a full scholarship. A world of opportunity had suddenly opened up for Iqbal, who had begun to attend school in Lahore and boasted he had turned the tables on his old boss. "Iím not afraid of him any longer. Now heís afraid of me," Iqbal said in an interview shortly before the Reebok award ceremony.

    But Iqbal received repeated threats from people in the powerful carpet-weaving industry. The latest was received just two weeks ago, said Khan, who travelled with Iqbal to Boston. Khan said Iqbalís campaign against child labor had led to the closing of dozens of carpet-weaving factories in his district. "He was so canít imagine," said Khan. "He also managed to free thousands of children."

    Pakistan has an estimated 6 million child workers 14 years old or younger, according to the Human Rights Commission, an independent group. They labor in carpet factories, brick-making plants, on farms and as household servants. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has vowed to fight child labor, but her government has taken only limited action. It faces powerful industries which argue that the impoversihed country needs their export earnings from carpets and other goods sold abroad.

    Carpet factory owners prefer children because their tiny fingers make the smallest, tightest knots and hence the best carpets.

    Khan recalled his first meeting with Iqbal. He was emaciated and wheezing like an old man, cowering in the corner of a meeting hall where Khan had gathered local villagers to urge them to fight against forced labor. "Iqbal was hiding himself. It was like he was trying to disappear. He was so frightened." he said.

    Here is the latest letter from Fawad Usman Khan, founder of SUDHAAR, chief administrator and founder of the "School for Iqbal" in Pakistan, founded through money raised by students at Broadmeadow Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts

    April 4,1999

    Mr Ron Adams & Campaign Leaders
    Broad Meadows Middle School
    Quincy, MA.

    Dear Ron & Campaign Leaders;

    Iqbal Masih was shot dead on Easter evening in 1995. Today it is Iqbalís fourth death anniversary. All of us in Lahore and Kasur join you in remembering Iqbal and in reminding ourselves for what he believed in: Courage, Struggle and Freedom.
    These are the attributes we need to remember in pursuance of our cherished goal of creating a society in which exploitation and abuse of children have no place. The small school that we started in Kasur in the memory of Iqbal Masih, today has over 280 children enrolled. More than half of them are working and most of the rest are younger siblings of working children. A staff of ten teachers facilitates 280 children covering Grade 1-4.Without C3, the School Dedicated to Iqbal, very few of these children would have had access to a school . Recently a health centre has been established close to the school for the children and their families. Here they will be able to have subsidized health facilitates from qualified medical professionals. Under the program, about half a million rupees have been provided to 42 families to develop their family enterprises, improve their income and consequently be able to send children to school instead of driving them into the child labour market. Based on its four schools in Kasur (including the School Dedicated to Iqbal), Sudhaar is working with 85 government schools in Sialkot (primary products: soccer balls, surgical instruments, leather products and carpets) and 26 municipal schools in Kasur. Sudhaar educational programs in Kasur and Sialkot are now reaching out to nearly 14,000 children and 400 teachers.
    The objective is to improve education quality and teacher and children motivation to increase enrollment and decrease dropouts to prevent the growth of child labour.
    This is our joint and humble tribute to Iqbal Masih who showed us the way.
    We are making efforts to sustain the School for Iqbal by seeking support for other quarters. You will be pleased to know that in terms of academic achievements, the children and teachers of the School for Iqbal are doing the best among all our four centres.

    Best regards,
    Fawad Usman Khan
    And all of us at Lahore and Kasur

    [This message has been edited by Adbulmalick (edited June 05, 1999).]

    No one knows who the hell he is because our people are idiots. They know who the bollywood actors are but they don't know who the real "hero" is.