Camel races are immensely popular in the Persian Gulf. The UAE banned the use of children as jockeys--long favored because of their light weight--in 1993, but young boys could still be seen riding in televised races for years afterward.
Rulers of the United Arab Emirates were accused in a lawsuit of enslaving tens of thousands of boys over three decades and forcing them to work as jockeys in the popular sport of camel racing. The lawsuit was filed the week of Sept. 3 by unnamed parents of boys suspected of being abducted, sold, and enslaved. They claim more than 30,000 boys may have been victimized, and are seeking class-action status. The lawsuit alleges Sheikh Mohammed, the crown prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Hamdan, the deputy ruler, were the most active perpetrators. The lawsuit was filed in Miami, Fla., because the members of the royal family maintained hundreds of horses at farms in Ocala, Fla. The suit seeks unspecified damages. Calls to the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, D.C., were not answered, and it was not possible to leave a telephone message after hours. A telephone message left at a Central Kentucky farm owned by the crown prince was not returned. John Andres Thornton, co-counsel for the children, said the crown prince was served with the lawsuit Sept. 11 while buying horses at the Keeneland September yearling sale.The lawsuit claims the boys were taken largely from Bangladesh and Pakistan, held at desert camps in the UAE and other Persian Gulf nations, and forced to work. It claimed some boys were sexually abused, denied adequate food and sleep, and injected with hormones to prevent their growth.