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A 10-year-old boy works at a brick factory on the outskirts of Kabul. (file photo)
A new International Labor Organization (ILO) assessment says that half of the workforce in Afghan brick kilns are children under the age of 14.

The ILO report details brick-making as one of the worst forms of child labor, where children work in a slavish cycle of debt that is almost impossible to escape.

Though both child labor and so-called bonded work are illegal in Afghanistan, children as young as 5 produce hundreds of bricks a week for a few dollars to pay off family debts, which only swell the longer they work there.

Poor health from harsh working conditions, reliance on shelter and electricity provided by brick employers and denied education mean brick makers are tied to their work.

The United Nations estimates that almost 2 million children in Afghanistan are in full or part-time work.

With agency reports
Mehdi Khazali
Iranian blogger Mehdi Khazali has been sentenced to 13 years and 10 months in prison and 10 years in exile.

In his blog, Khazali has criticized Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Iran's state policies.

Khazali’s lawyer told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that he will appeal against the sentence.

Khazali was arrested about a month ago and is currently on a hunger strike. The outspoken blogger and ophthalmologist has been detained a number of times in the past two years.

Meanwhile, Iranian authorities have arrested several people over alleged links to the BBC's Persian service, Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency reported on February 6.

Quoting an unnamed “informed source,” Mehr said the detainees produced content and reported to the BBC. It is not clear how many people have been arrested.

In London, the BBC said in a statement it has "no BBC Persian staff members or stringers working inside Iran."

The BBC said the report "should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.”

In October, Iran released two filmmakers who were jailed on similar charges. Last week, the BBC accused Iran of pressuring the staff members of its Persian service by targeting their relatives in Iran.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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