Archive for the tag “prostitution”

Women pay a high price for Syrian civil war

Eden Nelson writes for our communications partner, EurasiaStories.com:

womenMIDDLE EAST — The room is filled with Syrian women, all with similar struggles, similar fears, similar despair. Each was drawn to this place where they could hear stories about God, about Jesus — stories they have never heard before.

As the Bible study comes to a close, a few of these displaced women began sharing of how they came to live in a country that is not their home.

Jala,* a refugee, now shares a one-bedroom apartment in Lebanon with her husband, two sons and mother-in-law. Sitting in a poorly lit, old, crowded apartment, Jala makes a bold announcement.

“People really need to pray for the women in Syria because they are being raped,” she says.

Jala describes some of the horrific things she has seen and heard — women being raped in their homes or while fleeing the country and some being taken as brides of the militia.

God’s Beloved is a small booklet featuring six New Testament stories specifically tailored to help you point Muslim women to Jesus. Click here to learn more about this resource.

“They steal, they kill and they rape in the name of God,” Jala says.

In the two years since the war began, the death toll in Syria has climbed above 90,000 people. The plight of women, though, is seldom discussed.

Other women at the Bible study reiterate Jala’s point — pray for the women.

“They steal, they kill and they rape in the name of God.”

It’s common knowledge in the Middle East that it is easy to find a Syrian bride.

In a culture where honor is highly esteemed, a woman is considered defiled after suffering an assault. Many families struggle with how to react and marry their daughters off quickly.

A Washington Post article published in November 2013 focused on the growing reality of Syrian brides being married off to men from around the Middle East. “Of course I would rather her marry a Syrian, someone from our community, but what can we do?” Abu Yousef said of his daughter, whose husband was killed in the Syrian uprising.

Yousef reluctantly consented to the arranged marriage of his widowed daughter, 27, and her three children to a 55-year-old retired Saudi engineer.

Many families like Yousef’s are allowing these marriages in order to remove their daughters from refugee camps, hoping they will find a better life.

In the countries surrounding Syria — Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan — single mothers can be seen walking the streets begging for money or food.

Some women have become prostitutes in order to provide for their families. “Women are prostituting themselves in Lebanon for between 5,000 and 10,000 lira (about $3 to $6),” says Christian worker Catherine Steel.* With no husbands and no job skills, these women find prostitution is their last resort.

Andrew Harper, a representative of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said on BBC News, “I can’t think of anything more disgusting than people targeting refugee women. … You can call it rape, you can call it prostitution, you can call it what you want, but it’s preying on the weakest.”

In a situation that seems desperate, women are left not knowing what to do, how to provide for their young children or how to survive. Praying for these women is tremendously important, Steel says.

Another challenge is that many married women do not leave their houses because their husbands fear their new city and the dangers it may hold.

“Their husbands are their lives — everything they do is decided by their husband,” says Steel.

She asks the church to pray for the husbands as well.

Most Syrian women are accustomed to going outside only with a man, their mother or with an older son. “If you do not have that right now, then you do not go out,” Steel says.

So countless women remain cloistered indoors as their husbands search for work, waiting and hoping that they can soon afford to have food on the table again.

*Name changed
You can assist with relief efforts among Syrian refugees through BGR.

In Thailand’s red light districts

redlight

Kate Weatherly is a multimedia producer living in Asia. The following story is the first of three installments of Kate’s personal account of what she felt, heard and witnessed as she traveled to one of the largest cities in Thailand to photograph women lured into the sex industry. Click here to see AsiaStories’ Part 2 and Part 3.


Day One


My midday flight landed in the city of nearly 7 million people. After settling into my hotel room, I met with friends who were attending a small retreat for Christian women. The city was bustling in the afternoon heat as vendors sold their wares to hundreds of tourists. My friends and I ventured out for Thai massages and dinner.

Several months had passed since we last saw each other so we talked, laughed and caught up with each other’s lives. One friend teaches in a neighboring country and the other was a teacher at a local university in a different part of the city. I shared with them my assignment: capture scenes of the sex industry. The real work would begin tomorrow, but I needed to get a feel for the area so they decided to accompany me on my search for nightlife.

Our taxi driver had some difficulty getting us to our destination — trying to navigate four lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic based on directions three foreigners who had never visited the city.

We finally exited the taxi close to where we thought we wanted to go. One friend ran inside a convenience store to put credit on her phone, I double-checked my camera’s settings and cleaned the lens. As I waited, an Asian woman in a tan and black dress downed an energy drink near the store. Her dress was tight enough to see every curve, and upon observing her posture and mid-section, I wondered if she was in the early stages of pregnancy. We were getting closer.

My friends exited the store. I didn’t know which direction to go, so I followed the woman as she walked carefully down the step in her platform shoes. She was beautiful, but her face seemed lifeless as her hair swished around to hit her mid back. 

It was a short walk. We kept our eyes focused down so we didn’t trip on the uneven sidewalk. Then the darkness was suddenly invaded by the bright neon lights coming from a side-street off the main road, advertising numerous bars and dance halls. Dumbstruck, we hesitated at the entrance of one of the bars.

My friends looked at me. Apparently, I was in charge. Right-oh. I took a few pictures of the entrance and we timidly walked through. Granted it was warm for us foreigners but not for these Asians who were costumed in what appeared to be swimwear.

We walked slowly through the bar; I awkwardly raised the camera, taking a photo of my friends, carefully capturing images behind them. We didn’t belong and we knew it. We could feel that everyone else in the bar knew it, too. With all this pressure, could I gather enough information to help others understand this lifestyle? I only had three nights to capture images. Now it was two.


Day Two


The women at the conference had hoped for a retreat — a place to get away from their noisy lives and find rest. But the spiritual warfare they were encountering made them regret their convenient hotel booking. Several of the women told me of their vivid nightmares, which they were not prone to having, and others said they had hardly slept because of the noises coming from their neighbors.

“Oh it was awful! It was like they were right in our rooms—we could hear everything. It was so nasty,” one of my friends shared.

I tried to work from my hotel room that morning, but I couldn’t accomplish a thing. There seemed to be a heaviness clouding my thoughts, plus I like to be around people. I packed up my gear to check out my surroundings and find a coffee shop. Sweat made my bangs stringy after just a few minutes of walking in the humidity. Gross. The street kitchens I passed were sending signals to my body—time to eat. I passed several promising establishments serving western food that I’d been craving but hadn’t eaten in a while. Each filled with hungry-looking men with Asian cocktail waitresses sitting temptingly close.

Seriously? It’s lunchtime! Frustrated, I bartered for some mini mangos and hopped on a motorcycle taxi headed for the nearest mall. The air felt refreshing as my driver sped past the remaining scenes of the daytime hustle. So sad — and odd — how the sex industry never stops, day or night.


Evening Two


At the beginning, Lynn Andolini* and I stood outside the bars on the sidewalk, observing people. It was overwhelming. What do I shoot? Andolini had worked with Heartweavers, a Christian ministry focused on sex workers, and was used to this atmosphere.

She stood rigid by my side against the grimy bar wall as I dropped to one knee for a better camera angle on a group of young women — independent sex workers — who were applying makeup in front of a hotel sign across the street. 

Andolini let out an air of frustration. “That man is staring you down. Oh my word, he is not happy with you,” she said. “He is looking at you like you were some worm.”

I was now slightly alarmed, “Should we move?” I asked, snapping a few frames as the women smiled and mingled with a backpacker. Maybe he’s asking for directions. His eyes wandered.

“Oh, no, honey. I got your back,” Andolini said. “He is fat and old and I can outrun him anyway. No, keep on shooting.” 

I lifted my eyes above my camera to see who was giving me the stink-eye. An obese man with a red flannel shirt and blue jeans stood in front of me, hunched over from aging—or maybe it was the freshly grilled chicken kabob he was consuming from the street cart vendor.

Funny how righteousness is twisted in the darkness; I am the one frowned upon for being there, photographing, as if the shame was on me and not those men. The sidewalk was small, and shooting whatever images I could find lit by the neons and flashy signs was difficult. This was going to be a long night.

*Name changed

Refugee’s dream for better life … shattered

Click the image for animated video, "Speak up!"

Click the image for animated video, “Speak up!”

In a smoke-filled café in Istanbul, my friend took a long drag on his cigarette and began to exhale regret and sorrow.  He confessed to those of us around the table about a decision that would eventually kill his marriage and estrange him from his children.

He left Iran by himself, agreeing that his wife, Bahar* and their young sons would later join him.  The veiled promise of a better life was quickly tattered with the harsh realities of the life of a refugee.  He found himself living in a seedy hotel which doubled as a brothel for the many prostitutes who themselves had been lured away from their homes by the lies of human traffickers.

Ali* struck up a friendship with the hotel manager and one night after drinking with him, went up to his room.  A short time later, the manager sent a prostitute to Ali’s room.  Lonely and drunk, Ali had sex with the prostitute.  Filled with guilt and remorse Ali found himself in a place that wasn’t on his itinerary.  He turned to his only friend, the hotel manager, who used Ali’s shame to extort menial labor from him.

When Ali’s family joined him, they crammed into his dingy room.  Ali lied to his wife and told her that he was working at the hotel.  After a few weeks, his wife asked Ali when he would get paid.  When it became apparent that Ali wasn’t getting paid for his work, Bahar, marched downstairs with Ali in tow and demanded that the manager pay her husband.  The confrontation escalated and Bahar began yelling at the manager.  The manager reached out and slapped Bahar hard across the face.  Shocked, Bahar looked at Ali for support—he stood by in silence, anchored in place by the weight of his shame.

Bahar turned her wrath on Ali as she screamed, “What kind of a man allows this to happen to his wife!”

As he recalled the incident, Ali turned to me with tears running down his face and said in a whisper, “I am not a man anymore.”

———
Our ministry partner, CommissionStories.com, has launched a major emphasis on the problem of human exploitation — forced labor, children at risk, and sex trafficking — that includes a series of stories, videos, photo galleries, and other resources. You can follow the series over the next several months at www.commissionstories.com.

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