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Homless Children

Have you ever considered your own self while you were back in your early ages [ex : 8-14] working instead of a mother taking care of you and a father willing you the best life in the future, imagine your childhood was full of nightmares as you were working while you are getting no care, no education, just nothing but ur own world where u work,

Sherouk would like to talk to you more about it..

“”Which football club do you support, Ahli or Zamalek?” 10- year-old Ahmed (not his real name) asks. “You know the match is on tonight, right? I’m going to watch it, it doesn’t matter where; any coffee shop will do. But it’ll be good!” Bright-eyed Ahmed has been sleeping outside the Aboe-El Abas Mosque for the last four nights. By day, he sells packets of handkerchiefs to pedestrians and tourists. “I’m not a beggar,” he declaims proudly. “I work.” Already, at the age of 10, he has been twice detained by the police, having been caught selling handkerchiefs. “No one came to pick me up when I was released,” he explains, “no one even sent me food while I was in there. I hardly ate — just bread, whatever other inmates had to spare.”

For children like Ahmed, conditions at home are so hopeless that street life seems to offer a brighter future, however marginally. “I manage, with God’s help. Am I happy? I’m co ld — as we sit and talk now I’m freezing.”

Nor is this his first experience of living on the street. This time he left home because of his mother, he says: “She beats me so often. I don’t keep a tally on how often she beats me,” he laughs, “but I tell you it’s a lot. It’s better this way.”

“I want to go home, but not so long as my mother’s there. She’s going to go and stay with my father in Hurghada, which is where he’s from,” he continues. “She goes often enough, and every time she travels, she takes my two brothers and two sisters with her. But I’m the naughtiest of the lot, so she leaves me behind.”

Fatma, a tall peroxide blond who looks 12, does not know how old she is. Her friends call her Sattuta — which roughly translates to “little madam” — though she scolds them for it. Unlike the vast majority of them, she has a home she can go back to. “Sattuta’s like my elder sister,” says Ahmed. “She and I are always together.”

The two children are keen to know where their stories will be published, and whether things will change for them as a result. Media exposure notwithstanding, their living conditions inspire little hope. “I don’t go to school. Of course I’d love to, but it’s too expensive. So it has to be this way, I suppose,” Ahmed says.

It is at this moment that two police officers approach us — to inform me that it is strictly forbidden to conduct interviews with street children.

Though it is impossible to verify how many Egyptian minors find themselves living, working and sleeping on the streets — with the majority of cases still occurring in Cairo and Alexandria — UNICEF estimates that there are 200,000- one million homeless children in Egypt.

Among the threats they daily confront are illness, hunger, injury, sexual abuse, physical violence and exposure to and consequent dependence on illicit substances, not to mention the psychological trauma of growing up without a sense of belonging to a home and a family — a trauma in no way helped by the way in which they are systematically marginalized.

By Egyptian social standards, they live in a separate world with its own, separate set of rules. “These aren’t children,” one passer-by interrupts the conversation to remark. “They’re devils — don’t believe a word they tell you.”

Al – Ahram news paper / 3-9 March 2005 / Issue No. 732
By / Sherouk Mohamed

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