Jaded humpmasters turn to women

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:

SYDNEY––Australian Camel Racing
Association president Kevin Handley on February
5 reportedly failed to win an exemption from the
Equal Opportunity Act which would have allowed
ACRA to recruit “young attractive female riders”
to race camels in the United Arab Emirates––at
invitation, Handley said, of the UAE ambassador.
According to Manika Naidoo of the
Sydney Morning Herald, UAE embassy officials
had “hand-picked” 20 Australian women, most
with no previous camel-riding experience, and
hope to recruit up to 40 more within two years.
“Handley told the Anti-Discrimination
Tribunal that applicants had to be attractive and
female because the idea behind the scheme was to
promote women jockeys and counter camel racing’s
male-dominated image,” Naidoo wrote. “He
said if spectators saw pretty young females riding
camels, it would destroy the popular view of the
animals as ‘untrustworthy, stinking, and arrogant,’
and of riders being ‘bearded and backward
beer-drinking boozers.’”

But as a Moslem nation, the UAE by
law doesn’t tolerate beer-drinking boozers.
Further, the ACRA/UAE scheme
emerged only 125 days after police in Bangalore,
Delhi and Madras, India, arrested one Abdul
Malek Patwari and rescued more than 60 children
he was allegedly illegally taking to the UAE for
use as camel jockeys. Use of jockeys younger than
age 14 was banned by the UAE in 1993, but the
law has reportedly been poorly enforced.
“They come from the poorest villages,”
along the India/Bangladesh border,” Stephen Grey
of the London Sunday Times reported. “Their parents
sacrifice land and jewelry to send them overseas
in search of a better life. Instead of finding
opportunities and affluence, they are condemned
to cruelty and terror. As young as five, they are
tied to camels for illegal racing on which huge
sums are gambled, according to Indian authorities.
Their shrieks spur the camels to speeds of 40 miles
per hour or more. Those who are too afraid to participate
are beaten, according to the Centre of
Concern for Child Labour, which has collected
statements from witnesses. Many are starved by
trainers to prevent them from gaining weight.
Some have been seriously injured in falls; others
dragged to their deaths,” Grey continued.
“Officials believe the arrests have revealed a virtual
slave trade that has sprung up across India, following
a tightening of emigration restrictions in
Bangladesh, which had previously been the main
source of camel jockeys.”
The children are used in other ways, too.
“The authorities in Bombay said some of the
youngest children being sent to the Gulf, including
toddlers, were destined to join begging rackets,”
Grey reported. “‘The typical age range of the children
is from five to 12 years old,’ said Atiqur
Rahman, of the Bangladesh High Commission in
Delhi. ‘Girls are used for the flesh trade and the
boys for camel racing.’”
Soon after Grey’s account appeared,
British videographers Kate Blewett and Brian
Woods brought footage back from the UAE, Abu
Dhabi, and Dubai which Julia Llewellyn Smith of
the London Sunday Telegraph described as showing
“boys estimated to be between ages two and
five, racing camels in front of expatriate workers
and Arabian shieks. The children have no control
over the camels, but are employed merely to
scream and whip them to make them run faster.
According to a trainer interviewed by Blewett and
Woods,” who previously videotaped alleged atrocities
in Chinese orphanages, the children “sometimes
still have a milk bottle in their hand when
they’re carried off” the plane that brings them to
the UAE. “The children sleep five to a room on
the floor of corrugated iron huts,” Smith continued,
“where temperatures fluctuate between boiling
in the day and freezing at night. When they are
too old to ride, their visas are taken away. They
must then either merge into the UAE’s illegal
immigrant population, or return to Bangladesh,
having only dim memories of their families and
having forgotten the language.”
Woods told Smith that, “The camels are
treated far better than the children. They are
housed luxuriously, fed plentifully, and when they
are sick they attend special hospitals.”
The Blewett/Woods video aired at least
twice on British television in early December 1997.
The Handley scheme appeared to be at
least the second attempt of the UAE camel-racing
industry to find young women jockeys. A recruiting
drive in Germany in mid-1997 attracted 20
women, ages 18-23, 12 of whom competed before
40,000 spectators near Berlin on August 17 in an
event billed as Europe’s first camel race.

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