Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sex Traffickers Target Iraqi Women

Last year, I watched a documentary about human trafficking of women in Europe. It was heartbreaking. No woman should be subjected to such a life when all she wants is to make a decent living. At the time, I didn't know that many Iraqi women have already become sex slaves in the UAE.

U.N. Office For The Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (IRIN) reports:

DUBAI, 26 October (IRIN) - Mariam, 16, relives the day her father in Baghdad sold her off as a domestic worker in one of the prosperous Gulf nations. Instead, she was forced into the sex trade.

"I was a virgin and didn't understand what sex was. I was told that they [the traffickers] were going to get good money for my first night with an old local man who paid for my virginity. He was aggressive and hit me all the time," Mariam, who refused to reveal her real name, told IRIN.

Thousands of Iraqi women are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous sex worker traffickers seeking to exploit young girls' desperate socio-economic situation for profit, United Nations agencies have reported.

How did Mariam end up in this situation?? The report explains:

Before she left Iraq, she and her three sisters were being cared for by her father. Their mother was killed during the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

Mariam said her father couldn't cope with looking after the children on his own and wanted her to go abroad, particularly given the increasing insecurity and daily violence in Iraq.

In November 2005, a member of a trafficking ring offered Mariam's father an advance payment of US $6,000 for her, saying she would work for a family in Dubai. He was promised that his daughter would be returned to Iraq after finishing a one-year contract.

I'm not sure which party to blame, the invasion that killed her mother or her father who sold her to the traffickers. Either way, the Iraqi women are paying the ultimate price in the "new" Iraq.

Luckily, Mariam managed to escape and return to Baghdad. The Organisation for Women's Freedom in Iraq cared for her. The NGO has estimated the number of Iraqi women trafficked as follows:

The teenager's story is not uncommon. While accurate statistics are hard to come by, the Women's Freedom NGO estimates that nearly 3,500 Iraqi women have gone missing since the US-led occupation of Iraq began in 2003 and that there is a high chance many have been traded for sex work. It says 25 percent of these women have been trafficked abroad since the start of 2006, many unaware of their fate.

"People are desperate to get money to support their families … just to have something to eat. If the government does not act on this issue, more women will be abused outside Iraq," Nuha Salim, spokeswoman for the NGO, said.

The Iraqi government says it is investigating cases of women being trafficked and has arrested some traffickers, but tackling insecurity in the country is its main priority.

How little did I know about the priorities of the current Iraqi government? I thought the safety of the Iraqi women was part of the security plan!!! I guess I was mistaken. As for the UAE government reaction to the the U.N. report, UAE President has ordered tough punishments to human traffickers that may reach life in prison. I'll believe it when I see it.

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