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Garbage collector children: Iran’s modern slavery

Iranian children collect and sort garbage for a living
Iranian children collect and sort garbage for a living

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, November 9, 2019—In one of the corners of Shar-e Rey, south of Tehran, there’s a garbage lot that has become very important to a group of locals who make their living from sorting trash and—if lucky—find something valuable or edible. Sadly, most of these people are young children who are struggling to survive the deteriorating living conditions in Iran.

But recently, the state-run ISNA news agency reported, “On October 16, a number of garbage lots in Ashraf Abad of Shar-e Rey were destroyed. The destruction took place without prior notice and no one officially assumed responsibility for it. After the destruction of the garbage lots, the garbage collectors were forced to spend several nights in the neighboring deserts.”

The news outlet added, “The destruction of the lot took place while the municipality mafia was charging ever garbage collector child 35 million rials for access to the lot and 5-7 million rials for renting them small shacks to live in.”

Trash children are not in Shar-e Rey alone. This is a phenomenon that has become all too common in every city and town in Iran.

Without a doubt, the fate of the poor children of Iran is one of the most tragic results of the 40-year corrupt rule of the mullahs. These are children who have no bright future and, instead of spending their days in classrooms and their nights in the warm shelter of their families, are forced to do exhausting and humiliating work to make ends meet.

After destroying the lives of porters and fuel porters, the Iranian regime is now trampling the lives of garbage collector children. While the regime lays waste to the lives and makeshift homes of poor Iranian children who live in trash pits, its authorities are making a lot of money from exploiting them.

In one of the many confessions and disclosures Iranian regime officials and state-run media make in their rivalries, the Mehr news agency, tied to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), reported about a mafia network that has taken shape around the garbage collector children, whose members “kill people, cut ears, and move around with bodyguards.” The publication further wrote, “In Tehran, there are more than 4,700 children searching in trash, and 40 percent of them are the only breadwinners of their families. These children are at risk of being infected with various diseases, including Hepatitis, AIDS, skin diseases, etc.”

Modern slavery

The extent of the disaster only becomes evident when we consider how this phenomenon is gradually expanding to every corner of the country. But even worse is how Iranian authorities abuse these children.

On March 29, 2018, in an article titled, “Trash children are cheap labor,” the state-run ILNA news agency wrote, “The municipality is faced with a problem. If it stops the activities of trash children, it will be forced to pay higher wages to workers of legal age. These children can’t claim their rights through legal channels. And this is why they’re being abused. Trash children are considered cheap labor and contractors prefer to keep them at any cost.”

On September 25, ISNA ran a piece in which it described the situation of garbage sorters as such: “One of the social organizations in Karaj examined 60 locations where these children gather trash and came to harrowing findings. The average age of garbage collectors is 12, but there are also 4-year-old children among them. They live in makeshift homes made of junk and have no bath or washroom. They are threatened by various diseases and hostile animals. The children work 10-20 hours a day, a situation that can only be described as ‘modern slavery.’”

Confessions by government sources

Why is the situation of garbage sorter children growing worse? The main reason is that the corrupt officials and institutions of the Iranian regime have turned them into a profitable business opportunity.

On October 29, Tasnim, a website run by the terrorist Quds Force, wrote, “The lack of official oversight on the situation of garbage collector children has enabled some municipality contractors to abuse these children and make huge profits from their daylong work while giving them a very little reward. Most of these children spend the night in the garbage lots and live there, and we all know how vulnerable they are. Some of these children are infected with Hepatitis, AIDS, Typhoid, and Tetanus.”

On June 13, the IRGC-owned Fars news agency wrote, “The municipality of Tehran has outsourced garbage gathering activities to contractors at 2 trillion rials. According to estimates, the contractors make 100-150 percent profit. The runners up are the managers. The final ring of this cycle is the children. In recent months, while conducting this research, we discovered that many Iranian children and families in Tehran are entering the cycle of garbage collection.”

Even though the regime’s own media only reveal a fraction of the realities, these revelations prove that like other social crises such as addiction and body organ trafficking, the disturbing situation of garbage collectors is directly linked to government institutions and officials who are exploiting Iran’s children to line their pockets.

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