Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Iraqi refugee crisis influencing Syrian sex trade

Along with being forced to flee their homes and lifestyles, some Iraqi refugees have also been forced into the sex trade in Syria, The New York Times reported today.

Umm Hiba, an Iraqi refugee, was forced to flee Baghdad with her family due to increased militia attacks. With the rise in instability and violence, the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria has risen significantly, causing great tension in Syrian society.

Based on a recommendation by a fellow refugee, Umm Hiba took her daughter to interview at a dance club in Syria. To the surprise of many, the transition from refugee to prostitute is far too commonplace. With an increasing number of female heads of households fleeing the violence in Iraq, prostitution is the only way in which some can provide for their family.

As the economic status of the refugees continues to drop, some women are tricked into the industry or become involved as a last resort to feed their families. “So many of the Iraqi women arriving now are living on their own with their children because the men in their families were killed or kidnapped,” said Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, a Syrian nun at the Good Shepherd convent in Damascus.

“We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases,” Dietrun Günther, an official at the United Nations refugee agency’s Damascus office, said.

The number of Iraqi refugees has grown at such a fast rate that countries such as Syria and Jordan have started to restrict access to the fleeing population. The bordering countries have not been able to provide adequate assistance even with U.N. refugee bodies present. Access to public services is an ongoing struggle as host governments begin to feel the strain of the refugee population amidst increased instability in Iraq.

For the full article, click here.

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