Shocking story this week about an Egyptian girl kept enslaved as a house maid for three years by a rich Egyptian family... in the US.
At nine years old, Shyima was "hired" by a wealthy Egyptian couple to work for their family first in their Cairo apartment, and soon after as a "maid" in their California home. Her duties forced her to awake before dawn and work until past midnight, cleaning the luxurious five-bedroom mansion. Her "employers" kept her in a windowless garage that was neither air-conditioned or heated. The light bulb in the garage blew out shortly after she arrived, and was never replaced; Shyima consequently spent her personal life in the dark... in more ways than one. "I thought this was normal", she answered when she was eventually asked why she didn't just run away.
Thanks to sharp-eyed neighbors, who anonymously tipped off Los Angeles authorities that a young girl seemed to be living in Mr. and Mrs. Ibrahim's garage, Shyima was saved; since the trial of her "benefactors" she has been adopted into a family that, unlike the Ibrahims, takes her to Disneyland to go on the rides, not just to carry everyone's bags. Shyima's video interview is a welcome reminder to keep faith in the possibility of happy endings:
[Shyima] graduated from high school this summer after retaking her exit exam and hopes to become a police officer.
Shyima, now 19, has a list of assigned chores. She wears purple eyeshadow, has a boyfriend and frequently updates her profile on MySpace. Her hands are neatly manicured. [This detail is in contrast to the earlier observation made by the police who first rescued Shyima: "They noted her hands were red and caked with dead, hard-looking skin."]
She has had her future given back to her; if only the same could be said for other children still trapped in the bonds of slavery:
The trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa. Families in remote villages send their daughters to work in cities for extra money and the opportunity to escape a dead-end life. Some girls work for free on the understanding that they will at least be better fed in the home of their employer.
The custom has led to the spread of trafficking, as well-to-do Africans accustomed to employing children immigrate to the U.S. Around one-third of the estimated 10,000 forced laborers in the United States are servants trapped behind the curtains of suburban homes, according to a study by the National Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and Free the Slaves, a nonprofit group. No one can say how many are children, especially since their work can so easily be masked as chores.
[Hat Tip to Hot Air]