Iraqi law says that employees should not be younger than 15 and Article 29 of the Iraqi constitution guarantees the protection of mothers and children. “Economic exploitation of children in all of its forms shall be prohibited, and the State shall take the necessary measures for their protection,” it says.
However, as is often the case in Iraq, legislation with the best of intentions is not always realised.
Haider is not yet 10 years old but he has been working at a blacksmith shop in Baghdad for the past nine months. His father is ill, he says, so he has to earn money to buy medicine and support the family with his wages.
As he talks, Haider is hiding a burn on his hand and carrying a hammer that looks as though it weighs more than him. The owner of the store gave him IQD10,000 (around US$8) to buy medicine for the burn but still the wound is not healing very fast.
“It’s hard for me to watch my friends all going to school,” he admits. “But I have no choice.” In fact he says he would like to work more hours and earn more money. “After I have enough money for my father’s medicines I can go back to school,” he says optimistically.
Another boy NIQASH meets, Samir, has never gone to school. His father died three years ago when he was five years old and ever since then he has been working with his older brother as a carpenter to earn money for the family. He makes about IQD300,000 (around US$250) a month and he pays much of that as rent for the house where he lives with his brother, three sisters and their ill mother.
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