News / Middle East

Egypt's Children at Risk in Protest Camps

Children have been participating in protests in Egypt since the became widespread and near-constant in 2011. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
Children have been participating in protests in Egypt since the became widespread and near-constant in 2011. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
Heather Murdock
At a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo, mothers say they bring their children to demonstrations to teach them to fight for their rights. (H. Elrasam for VOA)At a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo, mothers say they bring their children to demonstrations to teach them to fight for their rights. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
x
At a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo, mothers say they bring their children to demonstrations to teach them to fight for their rights. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
At a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo, mothers say they bring their children to demonstrations to teach them to fight for their rights. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
At protests in Cairo, children often lead chants or are seen riding on their parents' shoulders with Egyptian flags painted on their cheeks. And while international organizations warn that children are in danger at volatile political demonstrations, parents say they want their children to grow up understanding what it means to stand up for their rights.

In this tent, a few children play among about a dozen women - many who have been here for a month along with thousands demonstrating for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

With no men around, Umm Henna, the mother of four-year Henna and baby Nouran, flips the veil off her face to chat while her children grab playfully at the microphone.

She said earlier in the day tanks pulled up outside the protest camp. While her husband joined the other men preparing to confront the tanks, she scooped up the kids and ran barefoot toward the mosque in case things turned violent.

Still, she said the danger is a welcome sacrifice to teach her children how to stand up for their rights.

But human rights groups say children are being put in harm's way and the interim Egyptian government says some protesters are using children as shields.  

Egypt’s military-led interim government has repeatedly ordered protesters to abandon sit-ins organized by the Muslim Brotherhood in support of Mr. Morsi.

People both in and outside the demonstrations fear that if authorities try to dismantle camps by force, hundreds more will be killed in the struggle.

In flyers dropped on the camp this week, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior accused protesters of keeping children at the demonstrations to prevent opponents from attacking.

Cairo-based Human Right’s Watch researcher Heba Morayef says demonstrations are dangerous for children, regardless of their political leaning.

“We’ve seen hundreds of children," she said. "I think the total is over 1,100 if you look at the overall number of children that have been arrested over the last two-and-a-half years. In some cases children have been injured. Children have been shot. Children have been killed as a result of this violence.”

The area around the Rabaa Adiweya mosque has been packed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters sleeping in tents for over a month. Critics say families bring children to protect them from police forcibly dismantling the sit-in. (H. Elrasam for VOA)The area around the Rabaa Adiweya mosque has been packed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters sleeping in tents for over a month. Critics say families bring children to protect them from police forcibly dismantling the sit-in. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
x
The area around the Rabaa Adiweya mosque has been packed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters sleeping in tents for over a month. Critics say families bring children to protect them from police forcibly dismantling the sit-in. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
The area around the Rabaa Adiweya mosque has been packed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters sleeping in tents for over a month. Critics say families bring children to protect them from police forcibly dismantling the sit-in. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
If authorities try to forcefully clear demonstrators fromareas like the pro-Morsi camp near Rabaa Adiweya Mosque, Morayef says, both the  protesters and the government must bear responsibility for keeping the children safe.

“Especially in the case of Rabaa where there would be clear risks both in terms of stampedes once the use of force actually starts, either asphyxiation because of tear gas or being caught up in gun battles,” she said.

Protests have come to define modern politics in Egypt, where two heads of state have been pushed out office in two and half years.

Wael Khalil is a veteran activist who advocated for the ouster of Mr. Morsi and of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He says protests in Egypt have always been a family affair.

“Actually the nature of our protests, I mean the anti-Mubarak protests in 2011, the main characteristic of it was how families come together and most of the protest afterwards," he said."So I cannot condone it for us and prevent it for them. I don’t think it’s sinister in any way.”

In Rabaa, mothers say they know their children could be in harm’s way but they believe their cause is worth fighting and dying for.

But some children in Rabaa say they feel safer in the protest camps - surrounded by their community and dozens of men with sticks and hard hats - than they do at home.

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid