Turkish Children Forced to Work 12 Hour Days to Make Terrorist Combat Gear
By Kenya Sinclair – www.catholic.org – 8 June 2016 – Abu Zakour, a 35-year-old clothing manufacturer, admitted he employs children as young as 9-years-old to make the uniforms ISIS militants wear into battle.Zakour told Daily Mail he hires boys, but some girls are hidden upstairs to work as well, for as little as 40 Turkish lire (about $1.14) a day.
The children stitch, measure and cut the pieces the older kids sew together. Though the use of child labor is illegal in several countries, desperation reigns in the Middle East and every little bit helps. In fact, Zakour believes the sometimes 12-hour days benefit families.
“My kids are in a school run by an NGO,” Zakour explained. “These children could go too but their parents want them to earn money, so what can I do?”
Once the uniforms and combat gear are complete, Zakour pays smugglers to deliver the clothing to the Islamic State. Zakour’s business does not stem from his great love for the terrorist organization, his reasons are far simpler than that. Zakour provides ISIS with their uniforms because they pay.
Life in the Middle East has led to thousands of deaths from terrorist and coalition attacks alike, starvation, illness and more.With money hard to come by, Zakour admitted working with children to earn enough to eat was well worth it.
“Of course we made far more money with the military clothes than the civilian clothes. There is a big difference between the military clothes and the civilian clothes, but what can we do? Where there is work, there is work.”
ISIS pays significantly more for its uniforms than civilians do, primarily because the roads from Turkey to Syria are closed, leaving a near-monopoly of uniform sales for Zakour and his team of children.
The clothing factory, located in Antakya, Turkey, was forced to stop production when border control was tightened, leaving no room for the clothing to be smuggled in.”The closing of the border made our job very difficult,” Zakour explained. “Before we had a lot of customers from everywhere. People from Idlib took a lot of things – people from Aleppo took a lot of things. Now the work has stopped, for the past two months. … This [selling uniforms to people from Raqqa] is not my problem. Of course it is a problem – but I want to sell my clothes, and make a living.Families in need agree, which is why the primary employees at Zakour’s business are children.
“There are people who would rather have their children work for 100 Turkish Lira per week, and see this as better, because they don’t have any money,” Zakour described. “The only reason that these children work with me is for the money – If there were no war in Syria, these children would be in school – and school would be a much better option for them.
“I pay them 40 to 70 Turkish Lira – it depends on the worker, who is better or who does more. Sometimes the family sends very young children to work, and I don’t like to say no, so I let them work, to benefit from this. Right now they are just working from day to day to survive. But maybe one day one of them will use these skills to learn how to be a tailor, and this is a useful trade. But right now it is just to make a living.”
UNICEF reported several children missing out on an education to work up to 12 hours a day for just enough to scrape by. Very young children are sent away from their families to fall under the care of older children. Now that the factory is closed, Zakour and the children he has been working with have been left to work for civilians. The pay is not as much but they continue to benefit. Other groups, such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) order uniforms and many want US and Russian uniforms replicated.Zakour continues to receive fabric from Istanbul and he works with the team of children to make the best of their difficult situations. www.mesop.de