Children around the world are crying out. Protesting their rights may help strengthen the morals of world leaders who continue to avert their eyes to the humanitarian catastrophes encompassing the globe.
When the Syrian uprising started in 2011, it began simply with teenage rebellion against government authority. A group of young teenage adults challenged President Bashar-al-Assad, who is also a professional ophthalmologist, and the war’s brutality of its people.
All it took was a teenager, who shall remain nameless per his partent’s request, and a dozen others to graffiti a school wall, spray-painting the words “It’s your turn doctor.”
This small challenge to the President got the teenager arrested and then tortured for weeks. And in the demonstrations to release the teenagers brought on the first days of Syria’s civil war.
Muhammad, an 11-year old boy in Syria has also endured torture beyond anything imaginable. Although surviving the open fired attack on demonstrators protesting the release of the graffiti-teens, Muhammad was instead arrested and beaten. Police used a rubber hose applying the beatings to his body and the soles of his feet. With a bribe of $1,000 from his father, the boy was released after four days of torture. But, this did not deter the brave lad continuing his protests for change.
As Muhammad’s protests against the government continued, his knees were shattered, his family’s home burnt to the ground and his father arrested and hung by the wrists for nine days receiving broken arms, ribs and electric shocks.
Not only in Syria are children stoically protesting their rights, so too is Razia Sultan, 15. In July, she and hundreds of students came together in New York to celebrate Malala Day, named after the Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, 15. A year ago, Malala pervaded an assassination attempt by the Taliban when she was shot riding a bus to school. The teen is now an international symbol for the education of women.
Because of Malala, In her village of Meerut a northern district in India, Razia Sultan campaigns for child rights and education.
At primary school age, Razia left school to work in a factory to stitch footballs to help make money for her family.
She spoke in Central Delhi at a child labor demonstration for passage of the Child an Adolescent Labor Prohibition and Regulation bill. This Bill prohibits children to work up to the age of 14, and any child under 18 cannot be employed in hazardous work conditions.
The 200 children who joined Razia at the Delhi protest are also asking for their rights, and not to have to beg on the streets.
In Franklinton, Ohio 11-year old Kalvin Williams, one of the protest organizers, and other students took to the streets holding up signs protesting against prostitution in their neighborhood.
Standing on Wisconsin Avenue right along side prostitutes doing their daily business, children held signs made out of pizza boxes to make their demands heard.
In Cairo protest camps, children ride on their parent’s shoulders chanting protests demonstrating the people’s plea to reinstate ousted Islamic President Mohamed Morsi.
International organizations warn that these children are in danger by participating in the volatile demonstrations. Many feel these children are being used as human shields.
But the parent’s retort that they want their kids to know what it means to stand up for their rights. Protests are a family affair to affect the voice of change in a world that protests to not listen.
For the past two and a half years, over 1,100 children have been arrested for protesting their rights. Children who believe voicing their cause is worth fighting and dying for.
The protests have defined Egypt’s modern politics wherein because of protests over the past several years, two heads of state have been ousted from office.
Then there is the Yemni child bride gaining global attention for her refusal to be forced into marriage.
On video, 11-year old Nada Al-Andai from Yemen fiercely declares to her parents and the world that she is not an object for sale. And at 11-years old, she would rather take her own life than be forced into an arranged marriage of monetary convenience.
For money her family married her off to an older man. Solving her predicament she child bride ran away to her uncle’s and was threatened death by her family if she did not return.
Arranged child marriages are common practice in Yemen. Although Nada was lucky of escape in her case, there are many children who Nada asserts throw themselves into the sea and claim death rather than have their dreams eradicated in an unwanted, abusive marriage. See Nada’s moving protest declaration on the video at the end of this article.
The Unite union has launched a video campaign to teach children how to carry out strategies for public protest via five animated, cartoon videos.
Unite’s purpose is for its members to get the best possible representation at local and national levels in the areas in which they live.
There are many who oppose the free online videos, stating the propaganda sends the wrong message to the world’s future generations. There are those who feel the videos encourage students to defy school rules and question teachers and authority. There is dislike that the videos teach the children how to make placards and fight for their rights.
A Unite spokesperson refutes this notion. Young people need to understand they can be part of and change the old ways of a society that is beginning to morally crumble.
So as the world continues to not listen, children’s voices will continue to roar even louder until they have been heard.
Written by Lisa Graziano