|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
26 Nov. - 2 Dec. 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
|Afghanistan photos: Reza-IMAX|
Memories of childhood
As Sandra Prunella Mason, chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, noted at the Children's Rights and Wrongs Conference held in Nicosia earlier this month: "With no government recognised by the international community and no operational administration, Somalia cannot ratify the Convention now, but will presumably move to do so as soon as the situation improves. The case of the United States could be more problematic, and may remain the single obstacle to universal ratification for the foreseeable future. It seems a sad irony that a state with such a long tradition in the area of rights may remain the single state preventing universal ratification of such a widely accepted international legal instrument."
According to the Convention, states must ensure that each child enjoys full rights without discrimination or distinctions of any kind; that the child's best interests shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social institutions, courts, administrative authorities or legislative bodies; that every child has an inherent right to life and that states shall ensure, to the maximum extent, children's survival and development.
The gap between the ideal and the facts on the ground is very wide, however, as children's rights, especially in the Third World, cannot be separated from wider issues of social justice, peace and progress. Children are dying everywhere in the Third World because of wars and famines. All over the world, street children are in conflict with the law; the administration of juvenile justice either turns them into criminals or eliminates them altogether, as is the case with the "social cleansing" used against street children in Latin America. Children are subjected to economic exploitation and are made to work under conditions that threaten their health, education and development. Moreover, in many countries children belonging to a minority or an indigenous group are discriminated against and deprived from the right to enjoy their own culture and to practice their own religion and language.
The photos on this page capture the devastating plight of some of the world's most distressed children: in Afghanistan, Kampuchea, Rwanda, southern Sudan, Kurdistan and Iran. Moments of pain or resignation, of hardship and loneliness, captured by internationally acclaimed photojournalist Reza, were shown at his Memories of Exile exhibition held at the Louvre from 16 July to 31 August this year. Reza, who attended the Nicosia Children's Rights and Wrongs Conference, organised by the Centre for World Dialogue, has kindly authorised the publication of his photos in Al-Ahram Weekly.