Sunday, January 13, 2008

Human Abuse in Syria - Part 1

Years ago, we used to point fingers at the Arabs in the oil-rich countries and accuse them of all sort of abuses, we used to hear and tell stories of the Asian house-maid that are not being treated as humans but as objects owned by their employers. We used to hear stories of human trafficking in Dubai where girls from Asia and East Europe are being fooled to go there and once they arrive, their passport are confiscated and they are forced to work in prostitution.

“Money does more than that in the hands of uncivilized people”, we used to say, nodding our heads in disgust

Few days ago, a friend called me and invited me to a different style of parties. He picked me up 1 AM and we went to a club somewhere close to Damascus. We walked in and there was more than 20 girls standing on the podium, dancing, moving their bodies with the rhythm of the music. Around the podium, the tables filled with hungry men, who sat there drooling.
The drill is that anyone can pick up any of those girls and have her seated at his table where he makes his offer to her for the next day. It costs $10 to have her at the table and god knows how much to have her as a treat for the next day.

I managed to get the numbers of two girls. I called the next day and asked them about their story. They both were sad when they were talking. They kept saying, it was the need that brought us into this hell. The first girl, her stage name is Nesmeh, was born in 1987 from Morocco, used to be a hair stylist back home before she read an ad about lucrative employment in Syria in the field of her expertise. She signed a contract and was brought to Syria to do what she does now. The other girl “Khouloud” was born in 1985 in Morocco. She was a waitress and came to Syria under the impression she will be waitressing as well. When I asked them why not to go back after they discovered the truth, they said that the only way to obtain their passports is to pay back the amount of 100,000 S.P. ($2000) plus the money of the flight tickets, all which they can’t afford nor dare to call their poor families for help.


They are put in a hotel in Damascus which they can only leave 4 hour per day. Pretty much like a prison, but instead of taking the daily break in the yard, they are allowed to take it in the streets, mainly to meet with the customers and fulfill their desires.

I know this is not new in Syria. I had always heard about it but had never seen it nor talked to the girls forced to do it. It’s known that the people behind this business in Syria, which is extremely lucrative, are people that nobody can touch or dare to go near, let’s say, the privileged minority of the Syrians.

*I sneaked in my mobile phone cam to shoot a few seconds of what’s going on there.


Dania said...

You met them, you can help them
Why not to report to police, why not to encourage them to go to the police?

It is illegal to steal some one’s passport and force her to do prostitution you know.

so, why they wont go and report it?

what I am missing here?!!

abufares said...

I'm glad you wrote about it.
As for Dania's suggestion, I'll leave the answer to you Ihsan. It's actually so complicated, it requires a longer post to explain.
Glad you made it back safely.
Keep on Blogging!

أُمنية said...

i'm not buying this either. i thought u were going to talk about iraqis girls, but morrocow?
they can just go to their embassy and report their passports missing , they are just saying this in a hope to take money from u.
we are not like the gulf area where forigners , especially indonisians and indians won't dare to report their passports missing coz this means they have run away from their Kafeel, and running away means they have done somethign illegal.
anyway, allah y3inon, i know for sure that no girl would work as a prostitue unless she was pushed for this. but no i don't belive this.

Ihsan said...

Dania and Omniah, those girls are legal workers in Syria. Everything about them is known to the police, is actually supervised by the police. The daily curfew is imposed on them by the police. If any girl is late few minutes, she will be sent to jail.

The passports are held by their employer, just like Saudi employers hold the passports of their Syrian employees, there is a legal loophole about this illegal action, I guess. The girls can get their passports back IF they pay the money they owe to their employer. It's as simple as that!

The prostitution part is not explicitly solicited by the employer but rather implicitly made simple. If the girl refuses to go out with a paying customer, she will get into troubles. What kind of troubles? well, for once she will be imprisoned in the hotel and won't be allowed out at all which means no work at the club for as long as she doesn't comply. While that may sounds better, that won't help her pay off her debt to her employer and go back to her country.

If getting out of such networks or if ending prostitution or human trafficking is simply done by reporting it to the police, life would be a much organized and safer place...but it's not that simple and life sucks....

In my post I wrote what these girls told me. We were speaking on the phone. They told me all that while they were aware of the fact that I'm not a "customer" nor a man who is into any of this crap so no way they will squeeze any money out of me. Could they be lying? You will need to hear them speaking to know and more, feel, that they did not have a choice in this. They did not choose to be posing there for the lusty sons of Adam! does need a lot of explaining and one post won't do it. Please feel free to elaborate, correct, or add to it.

أُمنية said...

ihsan, this is the first time i hear such a thing happening in our area. i still can't see the whole image u r picturing . it sounds to me like a story happening in the gulf area or in europe but not in syria, not coz we are holding the core of morals in society,no, but coz this story needs a rich ground to happen.
i know that the law of allowing a syrian to keep a resident's passport has been set in syria lately since they are brining the maids from indonisia and india.
and i know since the iraqi war the prostiuting trade is mashallah flourishing in syria.
bas ya zelemeh the embassy of morrocow is there, they can just go and report this, they can report they were (2tnasab 3lihon) and they are forced to prositute.don't tell me the workers in their embassy won't do anything.

it's not about hearing to feel and believe them, it's about it doesn't make sense to me.
and i might be all wrong and they are just the victims of two fucking syrians . every thing is possible now adays.

أُمنية said...

i just wanna ask u ihsan, since when do arabs in "almaghreb al3arbi" sign contracts to come and work in syria? what is it they were told exactly that the salary would be like, i mean to work as a wiatress? or to wrok as a hairstyle? how much they were told they were going to earn a month in a counrty like syria? that they both rushed to catch this dreamy chance and sign contract for it?

as far as i know ppl there might immigrate coz of such Ads to France or to canada or even to the gulf area but to syria???
i don't want to look mean but i think they signed contracts to prostitute.
this is what i think, and i hope i am wrong!

annie said...


You sound a little callous to me; salaries in Morocco are abysmal.
We don't know what they were promised.
And don't we know that policemen are not all lily white?

Tushar said...

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Numerous regional GIFT events will culminate in Vienna with a Global Forum against Human Trafficking from 13th to 15th Feb 2008.

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DUBAI JAZZ said...

Annie, I don't like to be judgmental, but what Omniah is suggesting is unfortunately quite possible.

The thing is with prostitutes, not a single one of them would declare that she likes the job. I've seen myriads of them here in Dubai. All sorts of colors, ages, looks and prospective clientele. But NONE of them will, in a moment of honesty, or when she knows that the person in front of her is not interested in the sex-trade (like Ihsan I suppose :)), will admit that she 'landed' the job because she likes the money. They will always argue that they were on the verge of hunger-induced fatality and simply had no choice but to sell their bodies.

In one of the documentary made by Armenian TV abut prostitution in Dubai, the reporter managed to get an old and fatty Ethiopian woman to take him to her place for a mere 100 derhams (30$). Once in her room and she had learned that he's a reporter, she started crying, she revealed her agony. She narrated different story about the mistreatments and the hardships she had to encounter in the job, either at the hands of her pimps or customers. She also had no choice; she had to feed her daughter back home. A heart-wrenching story by all means. Still, at the end of the sneaky interview, she said that she's trying to get her 18 years old niece to come to Dubai because she had a better prospect than her!

How could you blame the system if it's being fed and nurtured by those very people who are the obvious victims of it?

Of course, the human trafficking and the abuse issues are there, but the line of differentiation between what a hooker does by choice and what she does because she had no choice is very, very then….

Ihsan said...

I , too, was under the impression that such things are only in the oil-rich countries. But I was there myself. I saw what happens and I have the ladies statements, whether you choose to believe them or not. It does exist in Syria.
Now I’m not an expert on what the economic condition of the people in Morroco is nor, but I know for sure that in every country, there are poor people that can be lured with better income in other countries. The”dreamy chance” you talked about differs from a person to another based on their backgrounds and the level of need they have. For those girls, maybe a little bit more than what they make in Morroco could be enough to make them sign whatever contracts.

Again, there is NO contract for prostitution! It’s illegal, if such a contract was signed, there would be no power for the employer over these ladies as for a contract to be binding, it has to be legal. It just happens that one thing leads to another, and all of a sudden, they are sunk to their feet. Some of them may not be complaining, but I wouldn’t generalize.
I have to say one more thing though, this isn’t new to Syria. If you live in Damascus, ask around about Café De Roi or The Crazy Horse, they have been importing girls from Russia and similar countries for more than 15 years now. However, while you are at it, ask about who used to OWN them….try the Crazy Horse and you will be surprised to know the name behind the whole trade….at least used to be. However, the Russian girls knew that they were coming Syria as dancers. I had a Russian friend back in Damascus, we met the British Council then. She knew that her contract consisted of dancing and more, stripping, but prostitution, is always something extra and they are encouraged to do in most cases….and forced to it in special cases. Yet with these Morrocon, the story sounded different to me, hence, I wrote about.

Now what options they have in term of contacting their embassies, I wouldn’t know. But I’m pretty sure their employers are aware of such possibilities and have covered themselves.

Dubai Jazz,
I have seen the documentary you mentioned. Quit sad.
However, I agree with you. It’s much easier to dehumanize these girls and convince ourselves that they CHOOSE to do what they do. That indeed helps us sleep better at night.

أُمنية said...


i don't know what to say.
what is it that "it does exist in syira"?
that they are bringing girls under fake contracts to prostituite? ok, everything is possible. i know about the russian girls, but u said it urself that they already know why they are here.
my point is , and i'm not sure if i'm making myself clear, the two countires uesed here , which are Morroco and Syria are not suitable for this story.
i live in kuwait, i know many girls from Almagherab al3arby. as a morrocon, when u want to leave ur country to work as a waitress , u don't come to syira, where waitress' salaries are no more than 200$. but again everything is possible.
and it's possible as well that they didn't head to their embassy coz they know what kind of contracts they have signed.
with all my respect.
May Allah be with them.