Hege Storhaug, HRS
I 1993 besøkte jeg for første gang en mursteinsfabrikk der slaver arbeidet under åpen himmel og på brennende varm jord. Det var ved Lahore, og det var 46 grader i skyggen. Sjåføren og tolken min måtte krype raskt til korset: han begynte å kaste opp av den uutholdelige varmen. Selv pådro jeg meg dobbeltsidig lungebetennelse der jeg gikk rundt og fotograferte menn, kvinner og barn helt ned i treårsalderen som laget ”mursteinskaker” i de kullfyrte ovnene. Den gang ble det estimert at Pakistan har opp mot 20 millioner bonded labour, som like godt kan kalles slaver. Hele familier selges og kjøpes mellom typisk jordeiere, og de tvinges til å handle mat i jordeierens butikk for luselønnen, endog mat som ofte er dyrere enn i ordinære butikker. De opparbeider seg gjeld til jordeieren, en gjeld blir de aldri kvitt. Barna arver foreldrenes gjeld når den dagen kommer.
I 2004, da HRS var i Pakistan på prosjektreise, møtte vi en slik familie i Little Norway, som produserte murstein til en kakse fra Norge som eide dem. Hele storfamilien var altså kjøpt til slaveri av denne norskpakistaneren fra Drammen, og de bodde inne på det samme området der de fra solen stod opp og langt utover kvelden produserte murstein til palassbygging.
I Wazirabad utspinner det seg nå en grotesk historie om et slavebarn. Gutten på elleve år sies å være syk av underernæring, overarbeid under elendige forhold og alt for lite søvn. Moren forteller at slaveeieren, som familien står i gjeld til, vil stryke gjelden og gi gutten bedre forhold, blant annet ikke bruke jernlenker på han, hvis gutten konverterer til islam.
An 11-year-old Christian boy here is growing weak and ill from malnutrition from working in slave-like conditions for a Muslim landowner who kidnapped him and is forcing him to work off his family’s debts, his mother told Compass. Katherine Bibi said landowner Ashraf Cheema of Dhonikay village, Wazirabad, has offered her son better conditions and possibly cancellation of the debt if he will convert to Islam. “He is frequently invited to convert to Islam by Ashraf Cheema, and in return he is promised that he will be freed from the iron chains and his work will be eased and he will be served better meals,” she said. “Cheema has said, ‘The debt of your father and brother might also be forgiven if you convert.’” Young Danish Masih works without break from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., often in iron chains, on half a loaf of bread per day, according to Dawood Masih of the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP). “Due to the lack of sleep and immense physical and mental pressure, he is becoming weaker and ill,” Dawood Masih said. “And he is doing this bonded labor without any kind of leave, including sick leave, for the last one-and-a-half years, in place of his father Riaz Masih and elder brother Adnan Kashif.” The boy’s father and older brother had been working for Cheema to pay off a debt of 142,000 rupees (US$1,640), but their employer was neither paying their monthly wages nor deducting the amounts from their debt, said Emmanuel Berkat Gill of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA). Riaz Masih’s monthly wage was 3,000 rupees (US$35), and Adnan Kashif earned 2,500 rupees (US$29) per month.
Denne Cheema skal også ha stjålet eiendom og penger fra familien. Familien valgte til slutt å rømme til Islamabad. Der fant Cheema dem, og han kidnappet gutten, Danish, på da ni år.
Cheema also extorted land worth 35,000 rupees (US$404) from the boy’s older brother, again without deducting the amount from their debt, and ransacked the family’s house in Ali Naggar village, stealing Katherine Bibi’s dowry worth 200,000 rupees (US$2,308), she and Gill said. “Being a rich, powerful and influential Muslim landowner, Cheema did all of this and also had the cruelty to not deduct the amount from the debt,” Gill said. Suffering under Cheema in this way, the family decided to flee to Islamabad, 165 miles (102 miles) away, Katherine Bibi said. About 18 months ago, however, the peaceful life they had begun anew was shattered when Cheema abducted their youngest son, also known as Mithu, and took him to his farmhouse at Dhonikay village near Ali Naggar in Wazirabad. “After all these cruelties, Ashraf Cheema owes us some amount, rather than us owing him,” an inconsolable Katherine Bibi told Compass by telephone.
Familien har prøvd å gå rettens vei for å få frigjort Danish og for å få de stjålne pengene tilbake. Så langt lykkes de.
She has gone to court to recover her son – both her husband and older son do not risk provoking Cheema by attaching their names to the case – and on June 10 District and Sessions Judge Chaudhary Muhammad Ilyas sent a bailiff to Cheema’s farm to secure the return of the 11-year-old. “But the bailiff returned unsuccessfully without Mithu, as Ashraf Cheema, being an influential and rich landowner, was told beforehand about the raid by an anonymous insider, and he hid the child,” Katherine Bibi said. She said that since the bailiff failed to recover her son, Cheema has hurled threats at her and her husband, saying, “After this raid by the bailiff, you will neither be able to get back your son, nor will you be granted a cancellation for your debt.”
Familien fikk et tilbud fra Cheema: Hvis faren til Danish trer inn som erstatning for Danish, er gutten fri. Da faren møtte frem hos Cheema, brøt han avtalen. Nå benekter Cheema at gutten overhodet er hos han.
After joint efforts by Gill of APMA and Dawood Masih of the NCJP, however, Cheema agreed that if Riaz Masih would work in place of his son, he would release the child, Gill said. When Gill, Dawood Masih and Riaz Masih went to Cheema’s farmhouse, however, the landowner went back on his word and refused to hand over the boy.
Contacted by Compass, Cheema said that no such boy works at his farm or fields, and that “someone must have misled you.”
Lokale kristne ledere har bedt politiet om hjelp. Vel, i det korrupte Pakistan og med den utbredte undertrykkingen av kristne, frykter jeg at Danish og hans medhjelpere kjemper en tapt kamp.
Besides the court recognition of the abduction, however, Gill and other credible sources assert that Danish Masih works from dawn to dusk under a sizzling summer sun without any break or meal.At press time local Christian leaders had petitioned the deputy superintendent police of Wazirabad to recover Danish Masih.