Saturday, June 20, 2009
OLD NEWS: CENTURIES OLD
Muslim Countries in Mideast, Africa Lead World in Human Traffic
Sivan 25, 5769, 17 June 09 06:30
by Gil Ronen
Muslim countries in the Middle East and north-central Africa lead the world
in human trafficking, according to a new U.S. State Department report. Of
the 17 countries that were given the "Tier 3" listing reserved for the worst
offenders, nine were Muslim countries or countries with a large Muslim
population from these two regions. Tier 3 countries are defined as those
"whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards"
of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 and
"are not making significant efforts to do so."
The Middle Eastern countries with Tier 3 status are Iran, Kuwait, Saudi
Arabia and Syria. The north-central African countries are Mauritania, Chad,
Sudan, Niger and Eritrea, all of which have very large Muslim populations.
Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and
Lebanon are on the Tier 2 Watchlist - one step above Tier 3.
Shyima Hall, 19, was photographed for the State Department report in the
windowless garage where she was kept for two years. Shyima was 10 when a
wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to
work in their home in California. She used to wake before dawn and often
worked past midnight ironing clothes, mopping the marble floors and dusting
the family's crystal. She sometimes worked up to 20 hours a day and earned
$45 a month.
The data in the report indicates that Muslim countries in the Middle East
and Africa are continuing their centuries-old practice of human trafficking.
Historians estimate that between 9 and 14 million black Africans were
brought to the Americas in the Atlantic slave trade and between 11 and 18
million black African slaves crossed the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara
Desert between the Muslim conquests in the 7th century and 1900.
Iran: The report says that "Iran is a source, transit, and destination for
men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation
and involuntary servitude. Iranian women are trafficked internally for the
purpose of forced prostitution and forced marriage. Iranian and Afghan
children living in Iran are trafficked internally for the purpose of forced
marriage, commercial sexual exploitation, and involuntary servitude as
beggars or laborers to pay debts, provide income, or support drug addiction
of their families. Iranian women and girls are also trafficked to Pakistan,
Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, France, Germany, and
the United Kingdom for commercial sexual exploitation."
The State Department report noted that "the Government of Iran does not
fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,
and is not making significant efforts to do so. Lack of access to Iran by
U.S. Government officials impedes the collection of information on the
country's human trafficking problem and the government's efforts to curb
North Africa and Middle East:
Saudi Arabia, the report says, "is a destination country for men and women
trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser
extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from Bangladesh,
India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan,
Ethiopia, and many other countries voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as
domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but some subsequently face
conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, including restrictions on
movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and
non-payment of wages.
"Some Saudi men have also used legally contracted 'temporary marriages' in
countries such as Mauritania, Yemen, and Indonesia as a means by which to
sexually exploit migrant workers. Females as young as seven years old are
led to believe they are being wed in earnest, but upon arrival in Saudi
Arabia subsequently become their husbands' sexual slaves, are forced into
domestic labor and, in some cases, prostitution. The Government of Saudi
Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination
of trafficking and is not making discernible efforts to do so."
Syria is "principally a destination country for women and children
trafficked for the purposes of domestic servitude and commercial sexual
exploitation. Women from Iraq, Eastern Europe, former Soviet states,
Somalia, and Morocco are recruited as cabaret dancers and subsequently
forced into prostitution after their employers confiscate their passports
and confine them to their work premises. A significant number of women and
children in the large Iraqi refugee community in Syria are forced into
sexual exploitation by criminal gangs or, in some cases, their families.
Some desperate Iraqi families reportedly abandon their girls at the border
with the expectation that traffickers on the Syrian side would arrange
forged documents for the children and 'work' in a nightclub or brothel.
Iraqi families arrange for young girls to work in clubs and to be "married,"
often multiple times, to men for the sole purpose of prostitution."
In Kuwait, the majority of trafficking victims are from among the over
500,000 foreign women recruited for domestic service work. "Men and women
migrate from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan,
and Bangladesh in search of work in the domestic and sanitation industries.
Although they migrate willingly to Kuwait, upon arrival some are subjected
to conditions of forced labor from their 'sponsors' and labor agents, such
as withholding of passports, confinement, physical sexual abuse and threats
of such abuse or other serious harm, and non-payment of wages with the
intent of compelling their continued service."
"Adult female migrant workers are particularly vulnerable, and consequently
are often victims of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution. There have
been instances of domestic workers who have fled from their employers, lured
by the promise of well-paying service industry jobs, and being coerced into
prostitution. In other cases, the terms of employment in Kuwait are wholly
different from those agreed to in their home countries. The Government of
Kuwait does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination
of trafficking and is not making sufficient efforts to do so."
What Obama did not mention
The report has four tiers altogether: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watchlist and
Tier 3. Israel is in Tier 2, the second-best listing. It should be noted,
however, that statistics regarding trafficking in Israel are largely
provided by powerful organizations inside Israel which have been accused of
exaggerating the severity of the situation there for political reasons.
U.S. President Barack Obama, himself a descendant of black Africans, did not
mention the subject of Muslim human trafficking in his recent speech to the
Arab world in Cairo. He did mention, however, that "for centuries, black
people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the
humiliation of segregation," but did so in the context of talking about