One of the most frequent questions we answer in our gallery is why we have chosen to sell Turkish carpets exclusively. While there are many reasons for this decision, quality-of-goods being foremost on that list, there is one other important consideration: child labor. Unlike rugs produced in India, Pakistan, Nepal or Morocco, we can be sure that child labor is not a part of any rug we purchase in Turkey.
Child/slave labor is one of the most abhorrent practices in the handmade rug industry today. This practice, all but nonexistent in Turkey (which requires all children to attend school until the 8th grade), is commonplace in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Morocco, where children as young as 6 years old are separated from their families, and forced to work long hours in deplorable conditions, often for no wages at all, other than food and shelter. Some are even stolen from their families and sold to carpet producers.[i] The end result? Many of these children suffer permanent deformities to hands and spine, as well as lung diseases and diminished eyesight, due to their years as slave laborers. While there are rugs produced in those countries which do not use slave labor, the practice is commonplace, and even growing, due to demand in the west for cheap hand-knotted rugs. Two common questions concerning child labor in the carpet industry:
Isn’t rug weaving by children customary in eastern cultures?
Weaving and rug-making, much like the embroidery or cross-stitch taught to western girls in years past, is an art passed down by to each succeeding generation. However, when we speak of the use of child labor in the manufacture of carpets, we are not talking about a young woman learning to weave a rug, with her mother at her side teaching her an ancient family art. We mean the exploitation of children by large carpet manufacturing companies.
Aren’t children’s nimble fingers the only way to create such tiny knots?
In a word: No. By that logic, the world’s best plastic surgeons would have to be children, right? Size is no match for dexterity and the artistic abilities of a gifted weaver. Rugs woven by children are without exception the low grade “discount” carpets, never fine-quality treasures.