There are 27 million reasons why you should give a frack about Human Trafficking. I want to invite you to join us for a special film screening of Call + Response. And if you’ve seen it, see it again and bring someone along. If you’ve already seen the film, can you share some of your reflections so that others might be encouraged to watch this film or screen it on their own?
We’re not here to bait and switch, ask for your money, or get you to come to our church or buy more cups of coffee. We simply want to partner together to love mercy and seek justice.
Join Quest Church and Q Cafe for a screening of the landmark film on human trafficking in our world. Following the film screening, join us next door at Q Cafe for an advocacy fair with local and global partners in the fight against human trafficking to learn how you can be involved. All profits go to World Concern and Break the Chains/International Justice Mission to support their work against human trafficking.
Human trafficking is considered the third largest industry in the world and despite our advances as a human society, there are more slaves today than any point in human history. That – folks – is the essence of human depravity. Tickets are only $5 and all proceeds go to benefit the fight and cause. Seats are limited so purchase your tix now. Help us spread the word by sharing this post or share the Facebook Event.
Two articles I want to share with you. The first is a recent article from the NY Times/blogpost
Anyone who thinks it is hyperbole to describe sex trafficking as slavery should look at the maimed face of a teenage girl, Long Pross.
Glance at Pross from her left, and she looks like a normal, fun-loving girl, with a pretty face and a joyous smile. Then move around, and you see where her brothel owner gouged out her right eye.
Yes, I know it’s hard to read this. But it’s infinitely more painful for Pross to recount the humiliations she suffered, yet she summoned the strength to do so — and to appear in a video posted online with this column — because she wants people to understand how brutal sex trafficking can be.
Pross was 13 and hadn’t even had her first period when a young woman kidnapped her and sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh. The brothel owner, a woman as is typical, beat Pross and tortured her with electric current until finally the girl acquiesced. [read full article]
And this one from Time Magazine entitled Iraq’s Unspeakable Crime: Mothers Pimping Daughters:
She goes by “Hinda,” but that’s not her real name. That’s what she’s called by the many Iraqi sex traffickers and pimps who contact her several times a week from across the country. They think she is one of them, a peddler of sexual slaves. Little do they know that the stocky, auburn-haired woman is an undercover human rights activist who has been quietly mapping out their murky underworld since 2006.
That underworld is a place where nefarious female pimps hold sway, where impoverished mothers sell their teenage daughters into a sex market that believes females who reach the age of 20 are too old to fetch a good price. The youngest victims, some just 11 and 12, are sold for as much as $30,000, others for as little as $2,000. “The buying and selling of girls in Iraq, it’s like the trade in cattle,” Hinda says. “I’ve seen mothers haggle with agents over the price of their daughters.” (See pictures of Iraq since the fall of Saddam.)
The trafficking routes are both local and international, most often to Syria, Jordan and the Gulf (primarily the United Arab Emirates). The victims are trafficked illegally on forged passports, or “legally” through forced marriages. A married female, even one as young as 14, raises few suspicions if she’s travelling with her “husband.” The girls are then divorced upon arrival and put to work. (See Iraq’s return to “normalcy”.)
Nobody knows exactly how many Iraqi women and children have been sold into sexual slavery since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, and there are no official numbers because of the shadowy nature of the business. Baghdad-based activists like Hinda and others put the number in the tens of thousands. Still, it remains a hidden crime; one that the 2008 US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report says the Iraqi government is not combating. Baghdad, the report says, “offers no protection services to victims of trafficking, reported no efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and does not acknowledge trafficking to be a problem in the country.”
While sexual violence has accompanied warfare for millennia and insecurity always provides opportunities for criminal elements to profit, what is happening in Iraq today reveals how far a once progressive country (relative to its neighbors) has regressed on the issue of women’s rights and how ferociously the seams of a traditional Arab society that values female virginity have been ripped apart. Last month Baghdad’s minister of women’s affairs, Dr. Nawal al-Samarraie, resigned in protest at the lack of resources provided to her office by the government. “The ministry is just an empty post,” she told TIME. “Why do I come to the office every day if I don’t have any resources?” Yet even Samarraie didn’t think sex trafficking was an issue. “It’s limited,” she says, adding that she believed the girls involved chose to engage in prostitution.
That’s a view that infuriates activists like Yanar Mohammed, who heads the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. “Let me take her to the nightclubs of Damascus and show her [trafficked] women by the thousands,” she says. To date, the government has not prosecuted any traffickers. For the past year it has also prevented groups like Mohammed’s from visiting women’s prisons, where they have previously identified victims, many of whom are jailed for acts committed as a result of being trafficked, such as prostitution or possessing forged documents.
That’s where Mohammed’s group first saw Atoor several years ago, at the Khadimiya Women’s Prison in northern Baghdad. Now 18, Atoor married her 19-year-old sweetheart, a policeman called Bilal, when she was 15. Three months later he was dead, killed during one of the many bloody episodes in Iraq’s brutal war. After the obligatory four-month mourning period dictated by Islamic Shari’a law, Atoor’s mother and two brothers made it clear that they intended to sell her to a brothel close to their home in western Baghdad, just as they’d sold her older twin sisters. Frightened, she told a friend in the police force to raid her home and the nearby brothel. His unit did, and Atoor spent the next two years in prison. She was not charged with anything, but that’s how long it took for her to come before a judge and be released. “I wanted to go to prison, I didn’t want to be sold,” she says. “I didn’t think it would happen to me. My mother used to spoil me. Yes, she sold my sisters but she regretted that. I though that she loved me.”
Hinda the activist-investigator also knows what’s its like to be betrayed by family and considered human merchandise. Raped at 16, she was disowned by her family and left homeless. In many parts of the Arab world, the stigma of compromised chastity, even if it was stolen, is such that victims are at best outcasts and at worst killed for “dishonoring” their family or community. Desperate and destitute, Hinda turned to prostitution.
Now 33, she is using her knowledge of the industry to infiltrate trafficking rings across the country. She gathers information about the victims, where they are from, how much they’re sold for and who is buying them. Most often she poses as a buyer for overseas clients, a cover that enables her to snap pictures of victims and claim that they are for her potential customers. She drags out the negotiations for several days, knowing that the victims are usually sold during that period. Playing a disappointed pimp helps keep her cover intact, she says. She can’t rescue the girls, but the hope is that when the government decides to take trafficking seriously, her work and that of others will eventually help prosecute offenders and identify victims. She moves away from each trafficking ring as quickly as she can. To linger would be to invite suspicion.
But these days, she says suspicion is getting harder to avoid. She has been beaten before, by the security guards of pimps who suspect her of encouraging young victims to escape or offering them help. But in the past week she has received several death threats, some so frightening and persistent that she penned a farewell letter to her mother. “I’m scared. I’m scared that I’ll be killed,” she says, wiping away her tears. “But I will not surrender to that fear. If I do it means I’ve given up and I won’t do that. I have to work to stop this.”