Thursday, December 07, 2006

Camel Racing in Qatar and the Middle East: Charges of Animal Abuse and of Abusing Children Who Were Forced to Ride Them

Wow, what a sick situation. Another rich mans sport complete with animal abuse and child abuse. Read on for more information.

“The Qatari owners race on a paved road alongside the animals in trucks, using remote controls to transmit commands to robot jockeys about the size of toasters. The robots are armed with whips to keep the camels interested in winning.

"We used to use little boys as the riders until a couple of years ago," said Mohammed Abdulla, a race official charged with picking out the winners at the finish line. "But robots are better. They are lighter and more precise in their whipping."

The slower camels have a less enviable fate. They are slaughtered for meat

Earlier this year, the rulers of the United Arab Emirates were accused in a lawsuit of enslaving tens of thousands of boys over three decades and forcing them to work as camel jockeys.

The lawsuit was filed in Miami, where members of the royal family maintain hundreds of horses. It alleges Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai, and Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, the deputy ruler, were the most active perpetrators.

The lawsuit claims the boys were taken largely from Bangladesh and Pakistan, were held at desert camps in the UAE and other Persian Gulf nations, and forced to work.

It also contends some boys were sexually abused, given limited food and sleep and injected with hormones to prevent their growth.”

Article:

Sport of sheikhs seeks place in Asian Games

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/797935.html

By The Associated Press

AL SHAHANIAH, Qatar - Like most everybody else in Qatar, Obeid Nouri has been closely following the Asian Games. He knows that bringing the Olympics to this tiny, oil-rich nation on the Persian Gulf is one of Qatar's top political ambitions.

As far as Nouri is concerned, however, no international sports competition will ever really be complete until it includes his sport, "the sport of sheiks." Camel racing.

"This is our heritage," said Nouri, who came to Qatar from Sudan 10 years ago to train racing camels. "It is the sport we all like."

While the region's best athletes were competing in the first Asian Games held in an Arab nation, many Qataris were focused on what they consider a more serious pursuit - racing their camels around a dusty 3-mile track outside this desert village.

The races are held twice a week, but the ones going on during the Asian Games were especially important. The winners of a dozen or so heats qualified for an international camel race in the United Arab Emirates, one of the biggest races of the year.

Camel races can be chaotic. At the start, the camels surge off the line in a tight pack, often almost trampling their trainers. The Qatari owners race on a paved road alongside the animals in trucks, using remote controls to transmit commands to robot jockeys about the size of toasters. The robots are armed with whips to keep the camels interested in winning.

To add an element of class, the robots wear colorful cotton jerseys. Some had jockey hats.

"We used to use little boys as the riders until a couple of years ago," said Mohammed Abdulla, a race official charged with picking out the winners at the finish line. "But robots are better. They are lighter and more precise in their whipping."

Actually, there were other reasons as well. Earlier this year, the rulers of the United Arab Emirates were accused in a lawsuit of enslaving tens of thousands of boys over three decades and forcing them to work as camel jockeys.

The lawsuit was filed in Miami, where members of the royal family maintain hundreds of horses. It alleges Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai, and Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, the deputy ruler, were the most active perpetrators.

The lawsuit claims the boys were taken largely from Bangladesh and Pakistan, were held at desert camps in the UAE and other Persian Gulf nations, and forced to work.

It also contends some boys were sexually abused, given limited food and sleep and injected with hormones to prevent their growth.

The UAE banned the use of children as jockeys in 1993, but young boys could still be seen riding in televised races for years afterward. The case is still pending in court. Such scandals notwithstanding, the sport remains immensely popular in the Gulf states, with some races in Qatar drawing camels from as far as Egypt.

"The best camels are from Sudan," Abdulla said. "They are the fastest and have the best endurance."

Abdulla said a good camel can cover the 3 miles in less than seven minutes. The really good camels go down in history. One of them was "Attiyah."

"Her owners were offered 4 million riyals (about $1 million) for her," Nouri, the Sudanese trainer, said wistfully. "They refused."

After her retirement, Attiyah was used as a breeder. The slower camels have a less enviable fate. They are slaughtered for meat.

Camel racing enthusiasts see no reason why their sport shouldn't go global. And with such obscure sports as India's kabbadi, Southeast Asia's sepak takraw and China's wushu already on the Asian Games' roster, they are feeling a little left out.

Plus, they note, horse riding has been in the Olympics for decades.

"Equestrian is a sport for the elite," said Saeed al-Amin, another race official. "Camel racing is a sport for the masses."

Of course, the lack of camels elsewhere could be a drawback. But the Qataris are undaunted.

"We have support from the government," said camel owner Nasser Bin Saeed, whose entry "Gazelle" placed second in her heat yesterday and will be headed to the Emirates for the big race in February. "I think it would be quite reasonable to see camel racing in the Asian Games someday."

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