Iqbal Masih was a Pakistani child who became an international symbol of the fight against child labor. Despite his tragic death at the age of just 12 years old. Iqbal’s legacy continues to inspire activists around the world to this day.
Born in 1983 in a small village near Lahore, Pakistan, Iqbal Masih was the youngest of six siblings. Like many children in his community, Iqbal was forced to work in a carpet factory from the age of four. He would work for twelve hours a day, seven days a week, for a mere $6 a month. Despite this grueling schedule, Iqbal was determined to learn how to read and write. He managed to attend a free school set up by a local activist group, where he excelled in his studies.
In 1992, at the age of nine, Iqbal escaped from the factory and joined the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF). The Pakistani NGO is dedicated to ending child labor. He became a vocal advocate for children’s rights, speaking at rallies and conferences throughout Pakistan and around the world. His message was simple but powerful: no child should have to work in conditions of slavery and abuse.
Iqbal’s activism brought him international attention, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. He traveled to Sweden to receive the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child in 2000, just months before his untimely death.
Unknown assailants shot and killed Iqbal Masih near his home village on April 16, 1995. His death sparked outrage among activists and human rights organizations around the world. Who called for an investigation into his murder. Although no one ever identified the perpetrators. Many people widely believe that powerful figures in the carpet industry, who saw Iqbal as a threat to their profits, assassinated him.
Despite his tragic end, Iqbal Masih’s legacy lives on. His advocacy inspired the passage of legislation banning child labor in Pakistan. However, his story continues to inspire activists around the world to fight for the rights of children. In 2009, the United Nations declared April 16th the International Day for the Elimination of Child Labor in honor of Iqbal’s memory.
The story of Iqbal Masih powerfully reminds us of the human cost of child labor and the significance of standing up for what is right. Despite his young age, Iqbal demonstrated courage by speaking out against injustice and striving for a better future not only for himself but also for millions of other children like him. Although he has passed away. His spirit continues to reside in the hearts of all those who work towards creating a world free from child labor and exploitation.