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For Fatima and the other unseen children of Hussain Khan's carpet factory, Iqbal Masih's arrival is the end of hope and its beginning. It is Iqbal who tells them that their family's debt will never be cancelled, no matter how many inches of progress they make in their rugs, no matter how neat the knots or perfect the pattern. But it is also Iqbal who is brave enough to talk about the future. "Fatima," he promises, "next spring you and I are going to go and fly a kite. Remember that, whatever happens."
This is the story of the real Iqbal: a courageous thirteen-year-old boy who knew that his life was worth more than a rug, that chaining children to looms to work hours without rest was not right, and that there was a way to stop the abuse.
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"Yes, I knew Iqbal. I think about him often. I like to. I feel I owe it to him. You see, for Iqbal I was not invisible. I existed, and he made me free. So here is his story. As I remember it. As I knew him."
The house of our master, Hussain Khan, was in the outskirts of Lahore, not far from the dusty, dry countryside where flocks of sheep from the north grazed.
It was a big house, half stone, half sheet iron, facing a dirty courtyard containing a well, an old Toyota van, and a canopy of reeds that protected the bales of cotton and wool. Across the courtyard from the house was a long building, the...
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