Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What About Egypt's Children?

While watching the revolution sweep across north Africa, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Where are the children, what is their role in these historical events, and how are they being affected?" A quick Google search using the words Egypt and children led me to Robert Fisk's article in The Independent, describing how children have been treated under Mubarak's regime, and their role in the current revolution.

Fisk's article focuses on Egypt's 50,000 street children, though not surprisingly government statistics put the number at around 5,000. Interviews with children on February 12th revealed that "Mubarak supporters deliberately brought children to the outskirts of Tahrir Square to throw stones at the pro-democracy supporters, how they persuaded penniless street children to participate in their pro-Mubarak marches." Saida Zeinab, an Egyptian doctor, stated: "They were told it was their duty - a national patriotic act - to throw stones at the demonstrators, to do violent actions." Children were hit with rubber bullets, and at least 12 were taken to hospital with wounds from police weapons. Several children were shot dead.

On the other hand, children also had a role in positive community-building activities, with UNICEF reporting that people of all ages (including children) formed citizens' groups in order to protect their neighborhoods until the armed forces could establish order.

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