I have received by email a 3 page’ Executive Summary’ entitled ‘An Investigation into the sex trafficking of Iraqi women and girls in Syria’, issued by Karamatuna, SCEME – Head Office, in London, that describes its aims as interested in Social Change through Education in the Middle East, 2011. I have few comments on the report that I believe they need addressing.
My first comment is about the report’ claiming that:
‘Approximately 4,000 Iraqi women, one fifth of whom are under 18, disappeared between 2003 and 2007. Many of these are believed to have been nationally and internationally trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation’.
Even though the report said nothing about the source of such statistics or the method of collecting the data considered as ‘evidence’, it is still inaccurate to claim that those who disappeared were trafficked for sexual exploitation or that they were ‘many’, or to claim they were Iraqi women.
A considerable percentage of those who left to Syria, the subject of this investigation, were from the Roma communities who were living in Iraq before the 2003 USA invasion of Iraq because they found it difficult to continue earning their living in their field of entertainment and prostitution following the emergence of militant Islamist groups which harassed the Roma communities on claims of virtue concerns.
Those women were not trafficked by force; they migrated with their own full well in open day light through the borders to neighbouring countries such as Syria, Jordan and UAE. They were not exploited as such; they left Iraq by choice to earn their living the way they know best since they have no education, training or other skills, besides the poverty factor that struck all the Iraqis, including those who used to be the Roma clients who can no more afford the cost of entertainment and sexual pleasures’ services.
It is worthwhile to remind the researchers that EU countries received a percentage of those women as asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds and granted them refugee status such as in Sweden and Norway.
The second point that needs to be addressed correctly in the report is its claim that:
‘Sex trafficking can and does occur with the active involvement of family members. Iraqi girls area also increasingly finding themselves in mut’a marriages. On Fridays young girls are married off at price and on the following Sunday the couple is divorced. The rates at which these mut’a marriages are carried out intensifies in the summer when tourists visit
Syria from the Gulf.
This claim is outrageous. Iraqi families would never sell their daughters for prostitution or abandon them on the borders. If such claim was right, we demand to have access to the evidence upon which such claims are made and know the source of such serious claims and accusations. It is possible that there has been a case or two, but such incidents do not count as a phenomenon, but as isolated cases that should have been addressed accordingly.
It is a known fact that the Iraqis suffered poverty following the USA invasion of their country and the destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure is still evidence and the Iraqi families are still struggling along, yet, they did not abandon their children. I find it disturbing that the report never mentioned women’s disappearance inside prisons.
The other point, Mut’a marriages have nothing to do with trafficking women from Iraq against their will, since it occurs inside the borders of many other Middle Eastern communities like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, and Iran … hence I see this piece of information as an unclear intrusion forced on the report.
The report claims that ‘some girls are forced to have sex with between 10 and 15 men every day’. If this is not an exaggeration what is?
SCEME is talking about the need to protect those young women, but the report says nothing about the fact that they are turned back by immigration authorities when they reach the civilized world seeking refuge, because the immigration officials are worried about keeping down the numbers of refugees more than worrying about the safety of vulnerable women.
The report talks about International action that must be undertaken to address what it has described as ‘the causal’ relationship between poverty, lack of education, lack of employment and the prevalence of sex trafficking of Iraqi women, but says nothing about the ‘direct’ relationship between invading a country and turning it into rubble, producing 5 million orphans, one-two million widows, 4.5 million displaced and one million dead that should have been addressed.
The report talks about the need to raise awareness about Iraqi women trafficking but says nothing about violating the human rights of Iraqi women who are the victims of the brutal outcome of USA invasion and the resulting sectarian conflicts. Abduction, rape, assassination and murdering of professional women and human rights campaigner is not mentioned at all, nor the outcomes of bombing their homes and subjecting them and their children to military ammunitions which carried high levels of radiation.
I would say that the ‘Executive Summary’ reflects an over simplification of the problem. During the reign of the dictator Saddam Hussain, there was no trafficking of women. The Invasion of Iraq should have been highlighted as the core reason for this problem, or at least, the research should have mentioned that the USA invasion of Iraq is one of the main if not the sole factor of the trafficking of women from Iraq`.
Iqbal Tamimi/Director of Arab Women Media Watch Centre in UK