unveiling iraq\'s teenage prostitutes
Right behind President Hafez al-Assad\'s mosque, the club\'s parking lot is packed with cars, many coming from neighboring Gulf states.
Inside, disco lights pierce the smoky air.
While drinking beer, customers lazily stare at the dance floor and tidy up their seats.
They watched the teenage girls dressed in close-fitting dress awkwardly shuffle in Arabic music.
Many girls wear high heels that are too steep to walk.
Some people dance in pairs, and their fingers are wrapped together, often tightly pressed together.
Most people look boring and some are obviously upset.
Male customers called the waiter to inquire about the availability and age of selected girls.
I pretended to be a customer with a Syrian journalist and personally consulted the staff. Farah, a 15-year-
Old clothes in camouflage pants and heavy makeup were brought to our table.
Farah sat there waving her long dark hair, shaking hands around, and then sharply asked, \"Who am I talking to\", her pragmatic tone surprised me and pointed to the Syrian journalist
Farah had a pleasant chat with him, negotiating how much time she was going to share and whether she would take the \"next step \".
Farah looked at the waiter and nodded. A bottle of champagne was served at our table.
\"It will be 7,000 Syrian pounds,\" said the waiter . \". That\'s $140.
Champagne marks the beginning of the process.
The next step is the dialogue, and \"anything else\" will cost more.
When we were drinking champagne, Farah told us her story.
Like most girls in the Manara disco, she is an Iraqi, Sunni from Fallujah, one of the most war in Iraq --torn areas.
She got married in the UAE, divorced four months later and found a job at the Disco through a cousin.
She said she was \"just to make some money for my family\" and she is also living in Syria now.
Farah says she\'s the family\'s breadwinner.
The story of a Sunni girl from Fallujah selling herself at a nightclub in Damascus represents an astonishing new consequence of the war in Iraq, and a human rights organization and experts have just begun to speak.
Young Iraqi women and girls fleeing Iraq during the unrest are increasingly turning to prostitution in Syria, although there are no reliable statistics showing how many girls are involved.
This may partly explain why there are so few reports on the subject.
For journalists and human rights workers, it is difficult and dangerous to keep in touch with Iraqi sex workers in Syria because the topic is taboo.
\"This is a serious problem because there are young girls who do this ---
11, 12 and 13 years old, \"said U. S. Representative in Afghanistan Abdul Hamid Ali. N.
The high commissioner for refugees based in Damascus.
\"It was amazing at first.
But what do you do when you fight for your life ? \" The Syrian government and UNHCR put the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria at about 700,000.
It is not surprising that the Syrian police either lack data or will not publish any prostitution data, given the closed government. The U. S.
The State Department\'s 2005 Trafficking in Persons report acknowledged the problem, but officials did not have a clear understanding of the severity of the problem.
According to the report, \"There are reports that Iraqi women may be sexually exploited by Iraqi criminal networks in prostitution in Syria, but these reports have not yet been confirmed.
\"Of course, almost all conflicts breed prostitution.
Despair leads to despair, which usually leads to sexual work.
For various reasons, it is difficult to determine whether Iraqi girls are actually \"trafficked\", and most importantly, coercion is difficult to measure.
\"You can say that this is not caused by human trafficking ---
\"Trafficking is only taking advantage of this situation,\" El Ouali said . \".
The selling of girls and women in Iraq does not seem shocking, but prostitution is especially taboo for Arab women.
\"In this culture, making your daughter a prostitute means you\'re in trouble,\" said Joshua Landis, an American professor who currently lives at the University of Oklahoma in Syria.
\"If you know one of your sisters is a prostitute, none of them will get married.
If the public knows anything about it, it\'s a shame for the whole family.
Shame can even lead to \"honor killings\" where a woman is killed by her husband or relative for tarnishing her last name.
Hustling left a legacy of special violence in Iraq.
In 2000, Saddam Hussein publicly executed 200 prostitutes.
Prostitution will be particularly shameful in Farah\'s home town, as Fallujah is considered one of the more tribal and conservative cities in Iraq.
\"Yes, even the Sunnis of Fallujah are doing this kind of work, which reflects the dramatic nature of the situation,\" El Ouali said . \".
\"This is caused by pain and instability.
\"Syria has traditionally allowed easy access to its Arab neighbors.
Many people have come here because of rampant, indiscriminate violence in the country, while others, such as thousands of Iraqi Christians, have become targets against ethnic or religious denominations.
Some worry that they are marked with foreigners, mainly Americans, whether in the coalition interim authority or the military, as translators or interrogators.
But in addition to the Palestinians, Syrian officials do not allow refugees to work in Syria.
To a large extent, Iraqi refugees live on their savings, which are run out of daily expenses.
Many people are trapped in Syria because only a handful of Western embassies are issuing visas, claiming that Iraq has become a liberated country after Saddam\'s fall.
Officials say it is no surprise that as the economic situation of refugees continues to deteriorate, the increasing exploitation and prostitution of children in Syria is increasing.
Young Syrian journalist Koumay Mulhem, a reporter for an online women\'s magazine, has been studying Iraqi prostitution in Syria for a year and is preparing to produce a documentary about it.
On a recent Friday night Mulhem served as my guide and I tried to understand how prevalent prostitution is in Iraq.
Our first stop is The Martyrs Square in the center of Damascus.
With the Damascus charm of the Middle East nut and juice store, Al-
Merjeh, as the local knows, is a bit reminiscent of Times Square, New York, in its 1980 s: shabby streets, lots of streets --
Star hotels and pimps.
Within a few minutes, Muham found a pimple, a shoe-brushing boy, and soon began to bargain with him.
\"I have farfourd,\" said the pimps in slang for very young girls.
Fifteen years old.
\"I need to be younger,\" said Muham . \"
\"Yes, we can find them. Iraqi girls.
The cleanest you can find.
You will never see these girls.
They will make you happy.
Because you have more than one, so \"how much\"-
1,500 Syrian pound [$30]. \" Mulhem balks.
The demonstration was over, so he broke the agreement and walked away.
\"Two minutes,\" he said, a short comment on how easy the deal is.
Muham says Al-
Merjeh has long been a place to look for pimps, even before the influx of Iraqis.
This is a transit point for taxi drivers who are in Jeramana, Berze and Sayeda Zainab (
These areas hold many Iraqi Christians, Kurds and Shiites respectively).
\"Prostitution is booming in these areas,\" said Muham . \"
\"I am a resident of Jeramana and have a new place for prostitution in my own building.
He noted that sex workers in Russia and Morocco had medium-term operations in Syria. 1990s.
After Operation Desert Storm, the influx of prostitution in Iraq was relatively small, but \"everyone has felt the flood since the last Gulf War.
\"We jumped into a taxi in the square.
Just after we explained the destination, the taxi driver started to pull the guests from us.
He told us about the girls in the \"furniture apartment\" in the suburbs and provided us with a 16-year-old roomold maid.
\"You will see things that you will never believe,\" he said . \"
We went down to Rabwah, a community with about 20 clubs--
Muham said sex workers are mostly in Syria and Morocco, but there are now more Iraqis.
Before entering one, Mulhem pulled me aside.
\"These places are very dangerous,\" he said . \"
Don\'t speak English.
You\'re Turkish now, he said, OK \"the presence of Americans raises too much doubt because the locals are the intended customers.
At a club, girls are low.
Cut sling tops walk hand in hand along the fashion runway-like platform.
The loud music made the conversation impossible, so we decided to leave.
Like us, a man joins us to help us find the \"right club \".
\"We called a taxi and went to Mezza nearby.
We ended up at the Manara nightclub and I met Farah there a few weeks ago.
Our companions say this is a place where the best Iraqi girls can be found, and their youth is a premium.
The girls are more active this time.
As soon as we sat down, the four men immediately came to our table and squeezed in tightly, weaving their hands on our table.
Alia and Noura sit next to our Syrian photographers, who turn to them and ask them why they want to show themselves to him.
\"She\'s my sister,\" said Alia, who is 18 years old but looks more like 14 years old.
\"We always go together.
\"Where are you from? \" Baghdad.
\"Did you bring your sister over ? \" \"No, my mother brought us here . \"
\"Do you like your mother? \" asked our photographer ? \".
\"Of course,\" she replied . \"
\"Now you have to choose between me and my sister.
Sitting next to Muham was Dana, who said she was from the \"jihadist community in Baghdad\" but did not name the area.
He tried to negotiate a way to take the time to talk to her about her experience and how she got the job.
\"How much time will you spend with me and what will you do,\" he asked . \".
\"I will make you happy in any way you want,\" Dana said . \".
But first, she had to check the price and availability with her brother sitting behind Mulhem.
They agreed on a $100 and tomorrow afternoon appointment.
Mulhem does not show up).
The deal is over. Our party is over. -
Unless we decide to do more business. We decline.
The girls were disappointed and we went out at night.
As we strolled along the mosque of President Hafez al-Assad, Muham tried to count the number of prostitutes in Damascus.
He says there are about 40 girls in the Manara nightclub.
Now, about 120 clubs Multiply this number by this number and you have a good estimate.
The number of street vendors is small, and who knows how many prostitutes are in the \"furniture apartment.
\"As we continued walking along the windy street, Muham began to reflect.
\"She\'s just a child,\" he said.
They are all children.
\"An outreach organization for refugee children is a good shepherd\'s monastery in Damascus\'s crumbling old town.
Nuns\'s observation of prostitution in Syria reflects Mulhem\'s view, but they also met some Iraqi women who were enslaved by their husbands in local prisons.
Sister Mary Claude norduff said, \"The girls told me that they didn\'t like it, but they had to do it to support their families.
She added that in the past year, many of the children who participated in the nun society learning center were \"suddenly missing ---
She believes that it is most likely to be taken away from school to earn money for her family.
Her colleague, Sister Therese Mosalam, explained, \"to help prevent girls from prostitution, the center provides them with computer training courses and helps them find jobs in sewing and gold --
\"But the salary is usually about $50 a month ---
The best case is $100. -
In contrast, sex workers can earn between $40 and $60 a night.
\"There are very few jobs,\" she added . \"
\"I have a girl waiting for three years for the factory work.
\"When the sisters quietly recalled their visit to the refugee family, their voices declined.
Empty refrigerators are common.
Some children have yellow skin and look gaunt.
Malnutrition is beginning to catch up, they say.
The managing director of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society, Muna al-Kudi, who works with UNHCR, acknowledged that among Iraqi refugees, \"parents do not have enough food, so they encourage their children to do these jobs.
\"Her recent inquiries from the media and humanitarian groups about Iraqi prostitutes in Syria have become violent.
People are asking this question now.
Prepared for the war for several months
Now that Saddam is gone, the problem should be solved. No.
They came here before, during and after the war.
\"Somalis and Sudanese are working as prostitutes in Syria, but no one cares about it,\" Abdul Aziz Taha said . \" He is changing his clinic at a Red Crescent clinic on the outskirts of Damascus.
Both Taha and Kurdy say prostitution is a relatively small concern given the basic health problems facing Iraqi refugees, including hepatitis C, diabetes and severe heart disease.
Major medical procedures cost an average of $2,000, Kurdy said, but the Red Crescent only gives each family a budget of $200.
Nevertheless, given the growing awareness of the problems facing Iraqi refugees,-
Violence, limited mobility, reduced finance-
Some wonder why child prostitution in Syria has not attracted more attention.
The answer may depend on who you ask.
For Muham, Syria is profitable as a tourist attraction.
He believes that \"there is a positive cooperation between the club owner and the police, and they turn a blind eye to the return.
S. Professor in Syria Landis said that if Syria openly recognizes prostitution, it will \"mean sanctioning its existence\" and putting the country in the face of a shame that a family will face.
In fact, Syrian newspapers often replace the term \"prostitution\" with euphemism for \"anti-decent behavior.
\"Actively discourage talking about drugs, HIV and religion ---
Someone would say Review-
By the Syrian authorities.
Despite many inquiries, none of the Iraqi women\'s organizations answered questions about this issue.
However, the emergence of prostitution in Syria, especially among young girls, reflects the tragic situation of the local Iraqi refugee community. One U. N.
Officials who asked for anonymity to acknowledge the \"silent conspiracy\" surrounding prostitution highlighted the international community\'s failure to recognize the tragic situation of Iraqi refugees and provide them with safe havens.
\"Due to the collapse of Iraqi society, every social conference is divided,\" Landis said . \".
\"That place has been blown up, so all the social barriers have collapsed.