Bangladesh. The name evokes images of wars, floods, grievous poverty. Yet Bangladesh has a deeper sorrow—slavery.

Boys ages 3 to 6 are being abducted by traffickers or sold by parents for $3,000, equivalent to income for 20 years for the average Bangladeshi. These youth are then used in Persian Gulf nations as camel jockeys. Strapped to the back of a camel, a boy’s shrieks make the camel run faster during races, to the delight of gamblers.

The boys’ parents are often told that opportunity awaits their children—that they will receive education, health care, and social advancement. Bangladesh police say thousands of youth, many maimed or killed in the races, have been enslaved in recent years.

Impoverished females, ages 12 to 25, also are brutalized, auctioned to the wealthy in the Gulf nations. “Beautiful” girls go to sheiks for up to $2,000, while “plain” ones bring $200 and are transported to brothels.

Changing a disgrace

In an unusual alliance, a Muslim man and a Christian woman have joined efforts to rescue the boys and girls abducted from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh-born Abdul Momen, 45, who is a Muslim and was an adviser to the Bangladesh trade minister, came to the United States in 1978 to study and is now a professor at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts.

Yet distance and time have not dulled Momen’s anger over slave trading, which he terms “a disgrace” to Bangladesh and to Islam. Bangladeshi authorities realize slave trading is “large-scale and systematic,” yet make few arrests and often release suspects without trial, Momen says.

He says Bangladesh goes to great lengths to avoid antagonizing the Gulf nations, fearing they will cease to employ the 500,000 Bangladeshi nationals who now work there.

Yet, especially ...

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