To survive or not: Prostitution of Iraqi Girls as Young as Six in Syria

Posted on December 3, 2007

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By Lina Sinjab
BBC News, Damascus

Many of the Iraqi dancers are in their early teens. With their bright neon signs and glitzy decor, dozens of nightclubs line the streets of the Maraba district in the Syrian capital Damascus.

It’s here that men come from far and wide – car number plates are not just from Syria but Iraq and Saudi Arabia – to watch young women dancing.

Most of the dancers are teenagers and many of them are Iraqi refugees. They dance for the cash which gets tossed onto the stage.

The dancers are surrounded by bodyguards, to stop them being touched by the men. But the guards also arrange for their charges to be paid for sex with members of the audience.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees have moved to Syria and Jordan during the past four years, escaping the violence and instability that followed the US-led toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Women supporting families face the greatest challenge.

The Syrian authorities and aid agencies do not know the exact numbers, but many of the women say they have little choice but to work in places like Maraba.

[Note from Rafik Beekun: The following video contains UnIslamic pictures]

Lost innocence

Rafif is an innocent-looking 14-year-old, her long hair tied in a pony tail. She seems barely to understand the enormity of the crisis she is living.

“I have three sisters who are married and four brothers. They are all in Baghdad. I am here with my mother and young brother only. None of my family know what I do here.”

Banned from doing regular work in Syria, she says their money ran out and her mother started looking for other means to survive.

She says she makes about $30 a night at the clubs, but when men take her to private villas she makes $100. She won’t say what she must do to earn this money.

“A woman came and spoke to my mother, who agreed to send me to these places. We needed the money.”

[more]

Please click here to read the whole BBC report.

Maraba, Center of Prostitution in Syria

Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.

AlRawabi

But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.

Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.

As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.

“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” [more]

Please click here to read the complete article from the New York Times.

Please also read the report from the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children on this very sad situation.

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