Iraqi Refugees forced into Prostitution

September 16, 2007

Iraqi Refugees forced into Prostitution

I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought this would be a good post to get back in the swing of things.

One would think that by now people in the U.S. would be experts regarding Iraq. Since George W. Bush talks so much about “bringing freedom” to the Iraqis, saying things like “the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad”, I assume all law-abiding, patriotic citizens should at least know something about Iraq’s culture, its geography, languages spoken, not to mention everything about the daily struggles of the Iraqis. Yeah right, and first thing tomorrow morning, I’m buying a Jaguar for myself and a Porsche for my wife.

It is so incredibly frustrating that the average American is completely ignorant of the current human crisis and refugee situation in Iraq. If this were the 1930’s, with no TV, print, or internet, I would understand, but nowadays information is at the tip of the fingertips, one search engine away.

Take this recent article from WireTap Magazine:

Child prostitution is an increasingly widespread phenomenon in Damascus. Out of economic desperation, Iraqi refugee women and girls are forced into these roles. Frequently, women who have lost their husbands or girls who have lost their fathers resort to prostitution to support their families. And sometimes families that have no other financial resources sell their daughters into the sex industry. It is a tragic and horrifying reality.

There are no official figures as to how many of the Iraqi refugees work as prostitutes. But Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi women’s group Women’s Will, told The Independent that she puts the figure at 50,000. No one knows how many of the prostitutes are children.

Take a guess if this has EVER been discussed, or at least mentioned, in the mainstream media, with the seriousness this deserves. You certainly won’t hear it from the likes of George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. They just don’t to talk about the problems, and even if they do, they certainly won’t address the causes of it:

The increased trafficking and prostitution is yet another result of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. There are roughly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, perhaps 2 million within the Middle East. UNHCR estimates that 50,000 Iraqi refugees arrive in Syria each month. This situation represents the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948 and is currently the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Syria has been accepting more refugees without visas than any other country in the world. On Sept. 11, however, the Syrian government announced new visa restrictions that will sharply decrease the numbers of Iraqis wishing to enter Syria.

50,000 Iraqi refugees each month. That’s over half a million last year just to Syria alone. Syria has done a lot for Iraqi refugees, yet you really don’t hear much about it. What you do hear is that Syria might get a can of good ol’ butt whoopin’, shock-and-awe style, if it doesn’t do what the U.S. wants. If George W. Bush really cares that much for Iraq’s people, then he must be bending over backwards helping Iraqis, right? Wrong:

[…]In a July 2007 press statement, Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, states, “The Syrian authorities have responded very positively to the Iraqis’ needs, but they and the Jordanian authorities should not be left to bear the weight of this crisis alone.” He went on to scold nations who had previously committed to providing financial assistance but had yet to cough up the funds.

But a lack of money is not the only problem. Refugees International underscores that offers from the international community to resettle Iraqi refugees have also been scarce. For example, the United States initially promised it would accept 7,000 Iraqi refugees by October of this year, yet, to date, has accepted only 133. Sweden, which had allowed thousands of Iraqis to resettle, has recently closed its borders to them. The silence of other nations on this issue is deafening.

7,000 measly visas for Iraqi refugees that are fleeing violence, civil war and ethnic cleansing, and of those only 133 have been accepted. Is this the high standard the U.S. currently has in place for the refugees in the very same fucking country it is “liberating”? I mean, give me a fucking break. It’s not like the U.S. has never helped refugees before. In 1975, President Ford brought to the U.S. 131,000 South Vietnamese that had worked for the Americans.

We can do a lot better. But I digress. The average American, especially those belonging to that elusive “28%” of the population that still backs Bush in whatever fantasy he spits out of his mouth, doesn’t have a clue as to what an average Iraqi refugee has to live with:

According to the UNHCR, Iraqis arrive with three to five months’ worth of savings. Due to a scarcity both of resources and of housing, they live in overcrowded neighborhoods outside of Damascus, such as Jeremana, often cramped seven to a room with few furnishings. Iraqis are not allowed to work in Syria, so when their funds run out, they are unable to support themselves. Consequently, many work illegally. Yet these jobs are difficult to come by and poorly paid, and workers frequently face discrimination. A report published by UNHCR and UNICEF last year states that an estimated 450,000 Iraqis in Syria “face aggravated difficulties” related to their “ambiguous legal and unsustainable income.” As their savings dwindle, the situation of Iraqi refugees is bound to deteriorate further. Sybella Wilkes, the UNHCR Regional public information officer in Damascus, says that “64 percent of the people who have arrived here have run out of savings.”

Bassam Alkadi, of the Syrian Women’s Observatory, agrees that the economic desperation is leading to an increase in prostitution. “The standard of living for Iraqis,” he says “has gone downhill very quickly.”

Yet according to Dubya, freedom is on the march. Sometimes I wish I were more eloquent so I can convey my thoughts and emotions better, but such is not the case here. The Iraqi refugee crisis is something I, along with others that truly give a damn about human rights, have been discussing since before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. One of my main gripes, though, is the hypocrisy that people have towards all of this. They care about the Iraqis, yet don’t want or don’t care to find out what’s really happening. It is all horseshit. Just admit it – this war has nothing to do with WMDs (guess who still believes that nonsense), democracy, or human rights. The average American does not understand or care much about human rights, and neither does Dubya.

Who are you going to believe, me or the president of the United States? Hint: I have been known to be right on occasion.


Sudan’s President denies role in Darfur Violence

March 21, 2007

[Thanks to Eclecta for not letting me miss this.]

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir

This post might as well be called, “are you fucking kidding me?” In this remarkable MSNBC piece, Ann Curry interviews Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, which is widely viewed by the world to blame for the atrocities that are going on in Darfur.

Ms. Curry notes in her blog, “how does one interview a man accused of unleashing genocide?

Human Rights Watch says President al-Bashir should be prosecuted for war crimes in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has summoned one of the ministers in his government to face possible charges for crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir has just suspended cooperation with the ICC investigators and continues to publically state the situation in Darfur is exaggerated and solely a regional conflict . Now, in his first television interview to the west in four years, he will have a chance to answer these accusations.

So how exactly am I to face this man? How will I exact the truth, and at the same time keep the horror that I saw on the Darfur border from being revealed in my own eyes? I was never good at poker. I am gearing up for one of the greatest challenges of my career.

A challenge indeed. Omar al-Bashir is one piece of (rotten) work. Check out how the 2-hour interview came out:

Ann Curry: Mr. President, I have this map from the U.S. Department of State that shows more than a thousand villages in the Darfur region — more than a thousand burned.

And the question is, how can this be done by Arab militias without the support of the Sudanese government? This is shocking.

Omar al-Bashir: What do you think about the picture that Colin Powell presented before the national security that confirmed and illustrated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What do you think about it?

Curry: You’re saying this is not true?

Al-Bashir: This picture is the same fabrication and the same picture as the ones Colin Powell presented about Iraq.

In other words, we have Ms. Curry, who to her credit seems genuinely concerned about the atrocities in Darfur, and this creep throws Iraq at her face, as if to say, you and your country have no credibility or moral standing to be asking these questions.

A bonafide war criminal is basically calling George W. Bush and his Iraq wet-dream a war crime. This is even embarassing to write, but it takes one to know one. We have no moral compass to guide us. Lord help us.


Violating Iraqi Women – a Courtesy from the U.S.A.

February 24, 2007

This is one of the most disturbing posts I have done. So hard that I don’t even know where to start. Wait, yes I do:

According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Are you Sunni or Shia? Are you a virgin?? In other words, do you remember the first time you got raped? I can’t find this any more appalling.

The mainstream media has ignored Iraq, but the whole fucking world has ignored the plight of Iraqi women under U.S. occupation. Beaten, humilliated and ignored, Iraqi women are among many of the “collaterals” of the U.S. “war on terror”.

The above is from a story from MADRE, an excellent international women’s rights organization. The article is entitled “Iraqi Police Commit Rape—Armed, Trained, and Funded by the US” and you can pretty much see why I’m so outraged by this.

The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the media coverage has focused on her taboo-breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has missed two crucial points for understanding—and combating—sexual violence by Iraqi police recruits.

As Iraqi women’s organizations have documented, sexualized torture is a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine Iraqi organizations as well as Amnesty International, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Brussels Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while in police custody. These include Women’s Will, Occupation Watch, the Women’s Rights Association, the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights’ Voice of Freedom, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Media and Culture Organization. […] And the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein

Where is the outrage? It is not like these abuses have not been documented. They have been extensively documented – click on any of the links above and you will find plenty of references and eye-witness accounts. Why is the U.S. mainstream media ignoring this whole issue? I know it is kind of touchy, but that is why you are in the news business – to discuss and highlight serious issues, and bring to light those that need attention, not to “discuss the ramifications” of Britney Spears shaving her head.

Take this horrowing account from June 2006. All emphasis is mine:

MALTREATMENT AND PROOF: On 20 April 2004, Abdul-Bassat Turki, the first Iraqi minister of human rights, gave an interview to The Guardian on the condition of female prisoners in Iraq. Turki had recently resigned from his post in protest against the human rights violations committed by American forces and Paul Bremer’s determination to ignore his reports and to refuse him permission to visit Abu Ghraib.

Turki told the Guardian that he had warned Bremer repeatedly of the abuses of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, but that Bremer had consistently ignored all warnings. In December 2003, a month before the US military mounted its own secret investigation into Abu Ghraib, Turki phoned Bremer to complain of the treatment of female detainees. “They had been denied medical treatment. They had no proper toilet. They had only been given one blanket, even though it was winter,” the former minister said.

[…]One of the rare occasions in which Anne Clwyd, the British human rights envoy to Iraq, was moved to speak out about human rights violations after the invasion was when she learned of the arrest and subsequent torture of a 70-year-old woman, whose torturers forced her into a makeshift bridle and then mounted her like a donkey.

[…]Hoda Al-Ezawi relates that she was kept in solitary confinement for 156 days. Then her sister was arrested and thrown into the cell with her, along with the corpse of their dead brother. Among the other types of torture inflicted upon her was to be kept standing for more than 12 hours straight while subject to continual threat and intimidation. US forces and the Iraqi National Guard arrested Al-Ezawi along with her two daughters, Nora, 15, and Sara, 20, on 17 February 2005 on the charge of supporting the resistance.

Ali Al-Qeisi, the man whose torturers thrust a bag over his head, forced to stand on a crate as they coiled wires around him and then photographed producing the picture that has become a worldwide symbol of the occupation and the horror of Abu Ghraib, recalls his anguish at hearing the screams and cries of female detainees. “Their food was brought into their cells by naked men,” he relates, adding, “we felt helpless as we listened to their screams, unable to do anything but pray to God Almighty.”

[…]Suheib Baz, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, told The Independent that he had personally seen a 12-year-old girl being tortured: “She was naked, and crying out to me for help while being beaten.” He also relates that prison wardens would photograph these horrors.

[…]This is the tip of the iceberg. A report published by the Iraqi National Association for Human Rights on 29 October 2005 found that women held in Interior Ministry detention centres are subject to numerous human rights violations, including “systematic rape by the investigators and to other forms of bodily harm in order to coerce them into making confessions”. The report added that prisons fail to meet even the most basic standards of hygiene and that the women were deprived of facilities as fundamental as toilets. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed the accuracy of the report.

In such circumstances, it is insult to injury that female detainees are often forced to sign a paper prior to their release in which they testify to being properly treated. The purpose of this affidavit is to silence them and deprive them of recourse to litigation in the future.

It should be noted, here, that the first question that is put to female detainees is: “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Of course, this is all the work of a “few bad apples”. Basically, the U.S. has turned a blind eye towards everything that is going on in Iraq. It is not only causing these atrocities, it is fomenting, paying for them, and then ignoring them. Does the Bush administration think people are stupid, that we can’t fact-check what the say, and especially, what they don’t say?

It’s no surprise that we’re hearing allegations of rape against the Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare Iraq’s new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. DynCorp employees were found to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including “owning” young women as slaves. One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped himself raping two women. Despite strong evidence against them, the contractors never faced criminal charges and are back on the federal payroll.

Owing young women as slaves. A videotape by a supervisor raping two women. Giving them a blank check so they can continue to do whatever it is they do. Aren’t these war crimes? Again, where is the outrage? Why isn’t ABC news, CBS, NBC, Fox News (yeah, right), or CNN covering this?

I’m not overly religious, but do believe we eventually have to pay up what we do on Earth. I can’t even fathom how many lifetimes we are going to need to “repay” these atrocities. Then again, hell is too good for some evil bastards.

Hell is too good for some evil bastards


Escaping Sudan, Torture, and Brad Pitt

January 23, 2007

John Dau of Sudan stars in a film about refugees

I’m a little behind in postings, but rest assured this blog ain’t dead.

Here’s a fantastic article from the Washington Post about John Dau, a Sudan refugee now living in N.Y.

What debt does a man owe his past? Do survivors have an obligation to the dead?

As a boy, John Bul Dau ate mud, drank urine and swam rivers to outrun the men with the guns. He survived a 1,000-mile trek from his village in southern Sudan to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. He dug shallow graves to bury children who collapsed. The next day, a hand or foot would be stretching out of the earth, gnawed by hyenas.

As a man, John Dau is a 34-year-old security guard and college student in Syracuse, N.Y. He’s recently married, a brand-new father and a citizen of a strange country called the United States.

But Dau, the subject of the National Geographic documentary “God Grew Tired of Us,” which opened in Washington yesterday, is using his life here to try to improve the lot of people back home. Life in its fullest sense, he says, is something in which connections remain, over the years, over the oceans.

That first sentence, what debt does a man owes his past? Do survivors have an obligation to the dead? is not only beautiful in the literary and philosophical sense, but a creed to most survivors and refugees worldwide. John Dau is definitely thinking about those who fell behind:

So even as Dau landed in America, with one inglorious job after another — factory worker, burger flipper– he sent money back to the refugees. He also helped create a tiny nonprofit at a local church, the American Care for Sudan Foundation . It’s all volunteer, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward building a hospital clinic in his home region.

He’s just starting work at a new nonprofit, Direct Change, that is trying to push the clinic funding from its current $180,000 level to its $230,000 goal. They’re scheduled to start construction next week.

Contrast Dau’s behavior with the current right-wing rhetoric of every man for himself. People don’t have to go through such horrible life experiences to help out – that’s John Dau way of helping because that’s what life dealt him. What better way to restore the honor and integrity of the United States than helping out the world’s destitute? They are not asking for a handout – they are asking for a fair chance at a decent life in this world, nothing more.

He certainly commands attention:

He’s talking in a small office in the National Geographic headquarters in downtown Washington, soft of voice, shy of manner. He’s wearing a leather jacket and a Disney “Cars” watch. He is 6 feet 8 inches tall. Last week, Variety reported that at the Hollywood premiere of the film, you could pretty much walk up to producer Brad Pitt and chat as long as you wanted. Dau? Forget it. The man was mobbed.

Good for you, John Dau.

In fact, there’s a better way to salvage the reputation of the U.S. Get those soldiers out of Iraq – where they don’t want them – and move them into Sudan – where they are sorely needed. That’s a surge I would support.