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Qatar trials robot camel jockeys

Mon Mar 29, 2:39 2004 (AFP)
Robots have been used as jockeys in Qatar for camel races, a favorite sport in the Gulf which has faced widespread criticism over the use of young children from the Indian sub-continent in such races. AFP/File Photo "A race organised on Sunday saw for the first time the use of robot-jockeys, to the surprise of the crowd," said the president of the organising committee of camel races in Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Faisal al-Thani. Thani, quoted in Doha newspapers, said the practice would be repeated and widened. The Gulf Arab monarchies are trying to bring order to the national sport of camel racing in the face of protests over the trafficking of children as jockeys. The US State Department and human rights groups have raised the alarm over the exploitation of small children by traffickers who pay impoverished parents a paltry sum or simply resort to kidnapping their victims. The children, mostly from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Pakistan, are then smuggled into the Gulf states. They are often starved by employers to keep them light and maximise their racing potential. Mounting camels three times their height, the children -- some as young as six -- face the risk of being thrown off or trampled.

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