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Women organization helped bring down trafficking chain in Iraq

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Street view in Baghdad. Photo: Jeff Werner.

Security forces in Iraq have arrested Eman ”Dakhiliya”, who run one of the worse trafficking chains in Baghdad. Her criminal network, involved in sexual slavery, has also been dispersed. This is a huge victory for the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, OWFI, who has campained against her for a long time.

Eman’s nick name”Dakhiliya” means internal and refers to the Ministry of interior. She got it because of her connections with officers inside the Ministry as well as with the police in the area, which have kept her safe for a long time.

Eman’s accomplices kidnapped girls and women to work in her brothels. Women who came in her depth, like those who developed a drug addiction, were forced to sell their organs.

Exposed in report

As early as in 2010, OWFI pointed out Eman in a report on trafficking.

- Her arrest means a lot, even if she isn’t the only trafficker in Baghdad. Her business grew becuase she worked the poorest areas, where many homeless young women live. They were easy prey for Eman, says Yanar Mohammed, president of OWFI.

OFWI has received many threats, especially since the organization’s publication of the 2010 report, in which several traffickers and brothels were exposed.

- Eman and her pimps have threatened to take us to court or to kill us. But we have also, for several years, been criticized by government agents and many of the other women’s NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) distanced themselves from us in order to be on the good side of the conservative officials and the population at large, says Yanar Mohammed.

Women organizations important

- The example of Eman ”Dakhiliya” shows what crucial part women organizations like OWFI play, not only for the individual victims, but for the fight against corruption and organized crime. Few have the strength to challenge these criminal gangs, because of the risks it entails. These organizations need support and recognition, says Lena Ag, secretary general of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, a Swedish women’s rights and peace organization working together with OWFI.

Problem since the US invasion

Trafficking in connection with sexual slavery has been a continously growing problem in Iraq, since the US invasion in 2003. The deteriorating safety situation, increased powerty and deficient border inspections have been good growing grounds for traffickers. According to UNHCR more than 1,5 million people are internally displaced, refugees or stateless without safe living conditions.

Women organizations report that young women are being kidnapped, sold by poor families or duped to join the traffickers voluntarily, by promises of a better future. Sexual violence is tabu in Iraq and women don’t dare to speak openly about what they have been subjected to, of fear of becoming outcasts or even get killed. Therefore it is difficult to get any relaible numbers on how many women that are being used for sexual slavery.

New law lacks implementation

A small step towards a change was the signing of an Iraqi anti-trafficking law this spring. The law came into place after several years of lobbying by the Iraqi women’s movement.

- The current law finally treats the trafficked women as victims and not perpetrators, and gives general guidelines onto the state’s responsibility in helping the them to a good life after their painful ordeal. But we are still worried about the implementation since thousands of trafficked women still don’t have any way to seek refuge. They definitely can’t go home as honour killing awaits them, and yet no governmental shelters or group-homes or programs are planned for them, says Yanar Mohammed.

Annika Flensburg/Malin Ekerstedt

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