Monday, November 06, 2006

Azeri Turk Civilization

Islamic Fundamentalism and the Sex Slave Trade in Iran

Donna M. Hughes

Professor & Carlson Endowed Chair
Women’s Studies Program
University of Rhode Island

A measure of Islamic fundamentalists’ success in controlling society is the depth and totality with which they suppress the freedom and rights of women. In Iran for 25 years, the ruling mullahs have enforced humiliating and sadistic rules and punishments on women and girls, enslaving them in a gender apartheid system of segregation, forced veiling, second-class status, lashing, and stoning to death.

Joining a global trend, the fundamentalists have added another way to dehumanize women and girls: buying and selling them for prostitution. Exact numbers of victims are impossible to obtain, but according to an official source in Tehran, there has been a 635 percent increase in the number of teenage girls in prostitution. The magnitude of this statistic conveys how rapidly this form of abuse has grown. In Tehran, there are an estimated 84,000 women and girls in prostitution, many of them are on the streets, others are in the 250 brothels that reportedly operate in the city. The trade is also international: thousands of Iranian women and girls have been sold into sexual slavery abroad.

The head of Iran’s Interpol bureau believes that the sex slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today. This criminal trade is not conducted outside the knowledge and participation of the ruling fundamentalists. Government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling, and sexually abusing women and girls.

Many of the girls come from impoverished rural areas. Drug addiction is epidemic throughout Iran, and some addicted parents sell their children to support their habits. High unemployment – 28 percent for youth 15-29 years of age and 43 percent for women 15-20 years of age ‑ is a serious factor in driving restless youth to accept risky offers for work. Slave traders take advantage of any opportunity in which women and children are vulnerable. For example, following the recent earthquake in Bam, orphaned girls have been kidnapped and taken to a known slave market in Tehran where Iranian and foreign traders meet.

Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. According to the head of the Tehran province judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17, although there are reports of some girls as young as 8 and 10, to send to Arab countries. One ring was discovered after an 18 year-old girl escaped from a basement where a group of girls were held before being sent to Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The number of Iranian women and girls who are deported from Persian Gulf countries indicates the magnitude of the trade. Upon their return to Iran, the Islamic fundamentalists blame the victims, and often physically punish and imprison them. The women are examined to determine if they have engaged in “immoral activity.” Based on the findings, officials can ban them from leaving the country again.

Police have uncovered a number of prostitution and slavery rings operating from Tehran that have sold girls to France, Britain, Turkey, as well. One network based in Turkey bought smuggled Iranian women and girls, gave them fake passports, and transported them to European and Persian Gulf countries. In one case, a 16-year-old girl was smuggled to Turkey, and then sold to a 58-year-old European national for $20,000.

In the northeastern Iranian province of Khorasan, local police report that girls are being sold to Pakistani men as sex-slaves. The Pakistani men marry the girls, ranging in age from 12 to 20, and then sell them to brothels called “Kharabat” in Pakistan. One network was caught contacting poor families around Mashad and offering to marry girls. The girls were then taken through Afghanistan to Pakistan where they were sold to brothels.

In the southeastern border province of Sistan Baluchestan, thousands of Iranian girls reportedly have been sold to Afghani men. Their final destinations are unknown.

One factor contributing to the increase in prostitution and the sex slave trade is the number of teen girls who are running away from home. The girls are rebelling against fundamentalist imposed restrictions on their freedom, domestic abuse, and parental drug addictions. Unfortunately, in their flight to freedom, the girls find more abuse and exploitation. Ninety percent of girls who run away from home will end up in prostitution. As a result of runaways, in Tehran alone there are an estimated 25,000 street children, most of them girls. Pimps prey upon street children, runaways, and vulnerable high school girls in city parks. In one case, a woman was discovered selling Iranian girls to men in Persian Gulf countries; for four years, she had hunted down runaway girls and sold them. She even sold her own daughter for US$11,000.

Given the totalitarian rule in Iran, most organized activities are known to the authorities. The exposure of sex slave networks in Iran has shown that many mullahs and officials are involved in the sexual exploitation and trade of women and girls. Women report that in order to have a judge approve a divorce they have to have sex with him. Women who are arrested for prostitution say they must have sex with the arresting officer. There are reports of police locating young women for sex for the wealthy and powerful mullahs.

In cities, shelters have been set-up to provide assistance for runaways. Officials who run these shelters are often corrupt; they run prostitution rings using the girls from the shelter. For example in Karaj, the former head of a Revolutionary Tribunal and seven other senior officials were arrested in connection with a prostitution ring that used 12 to 18 year old girls from a shelter called the Center of Islamic Orientation.

Other instances of corruption abound. There was a judge in Karaj who was involved in a network that identified young girls to be sold abroad. And in Qom, the center for religious training in Iran, when a prostitution ring was broken up, some of the people arrested were from government agencies, including the Department of Justice.

The ruling fundamentalists have differing opinions on their official position on the sex trade: deny and hide it or recognize and accommodate it. In 2002, a BBC journalist was deported for taking photographs of prostitutes. Officials told her: “We are deporting you … because you have taken pictures of prostitutes. This is not a true reflection of life in our Islamic Republic. We don’t have prostitutes.” Yet, earlier the same year, officials of the Social Department of the Interior Ministry suggested legalizing prostitution as a way to manage it and control the spread of HIV. They proposed setting-up brothels, called “morality houses,” and using the traditional religious custom of temporary marriage, in which a couple can marry for a short period of time, even an hour, to facilitate prostitution. Islamic fundamentalists’ ideology and practices are adaptable when it comes to controlling and using women.

Some may think a thriving sex trade in a theocracy with clerics acting as pimps is a contradiction in a country founded and ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. In fact, this is not a contradiction. First, exploitation and repression of women are closely associated. Both exist where women, individually or collectively, are denied freedom and rights. Second, the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran are not simply conservative Muslims. Islamic fundamentalism is a political movement with a political ideology that considers women inherently inferior in intellectual and moral capacity. Fundamentalists hate women’s minds and bodies. Selling women and girls for prostitution is just the dehumanizing complement to forcing women and girls to cover their bodies and hair with the veil.

In a religious dictatorship like Iran, one cannot appeal to the rule of law for justice for women and girls. Women and girls have no guarantees of freedom and rights, and no expectation of respect or dignity from the Islamic fundamentalists. Only the end of the Iranian regime will free women and girls from all the forms of slavery they suffer.

The author wishes to acknowledge the Iranian human rights and pro-democracy activists who contributed information for this article. If any readers have information on prostitution and the sex slave trade in Iran, please contact me at

Dr. Donna M. Hughes is a Professor and holds the Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Azeri Turk Civilization on Export to Afghanistan

Temporary marriage catches on in Afghanistan

Twenty-nine-year-old mechanic Payenda Mohammad was married last month in a simple ceremony in this northern Afghanistan town, but the marriage only lasted four hours.

Which was exactly what he wanted.

"Nobody would give me their daughters to marry because I didn't have family or money," says Payenda, who ended up in Iran after his parents and a sister were killed in a bombing raid about 15 years ago.

"I started doing short marriages in Iran," he says. "When I came back to Mazar-i-Sharif, I continued," he says. He's now been married 20 times.

In a country where most marriages are for life and all divorces are a scandal, the idea of the contract or temporary marriage is beginning to catch on.

Afghanistan's majority Sunni Muslims bans the marriages, known as fegha in the main Dari language, but the Shiites accept them and some people here, like Payenda, got the idea from Iran.

Such marriages were rare in Afghanistan before the Sunni-dominated Taliban regime was overthrown in late 2001, ending 25 years of war.

But with the return of many of the nearly two million Afghans who fled to Shiite Iran during the conflict, contract marriages have been gaining popularity -- although they are still unusual.

The process is simple. To get married, a couple takes an oath in front of a mullah that makes them man and wife for a stipulated period of time -- from a few hours to a few years.

Afterwards they can then choose to marry each other again or move on.

Shiite clerics defend the practice as something that benefits both the men and women.

"For a man it means he doesn't have to think about women or sex. For a woman, it means she has a husband to feed and take care of her and her children," said Sayed Barat Ali Razawi, a Shiite mullah in Mazar-i-Sharif.

He says the Prophet Mohammed himself gave permission for soldiers to have short marriages while they were away from home, and for women to marry temporarily if their real husbands had died.

Sunni Muslims say this is wrong.

"In my opinion contract marriage is just for sex," says Mullah Azizullah Mofley, a Sunni cleric, insisting the prophet later outlawed the practice.

Young people "abuse contract marriages just for sex by marrying for just one or two hours," he says.

But Nader Nadery, from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, says the contract marriage is not a way to legitimise sex but an attempt to find a practical solution to difficult circumstances like poverty.

"It is not a new trend to overcome a strict moral code," Nadery says. "It started hundreds of years ago."

In a normal marriage, an Afghan groom must pay a dowry that can be worth anything from 1,000 to several thousand dollars. He then has to pay for the wedding party, which can cost hundreds more.

"I waited for five years but no one came to our house to marry me," says Nazira, whose first husband was killed by the Taliban.

"My father was so poor that he couldn't feed our family. One day a man came to our house and told my father that he wanted to marry me for seven months. My father had heard about contract marriages so he accepted," she says.

Her husband Mohammad Asef, a 38-year-old shopkeeper, learned the custom in Iran, where he had gone to work for a year after his wife died, leaving him with two children.

"When I returned to Afghanistan my aunt helped me find this woman," he says, gesturing to Nazira, with whom he is halfway through a six-month contract.

Mohammad is her second contract husband.

"Short marriages have a lot of benefits for women whose husbands have died," she says, as her husband serves customers in the store.

"It helps them look after their children better and they don't need to go out for sex. Also, we don't have to pay for a wedding party because with a short marriage we just go to a mullah."

She says a regular marriage would have cost them 3,000 dollars.

"It is very difficult," Nazira says. "Where would we find that kind of money?"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The price of Iranian girls after entering the Persian Gulf trafficking market

©Translated by WFAFI 2004 All Rights Reserved, for usage please contact info@wfafi.og

The price of Iranian girls after entering the Persian Gulf trafficking market

May 2004
SINA News Agency – Sociologists have called this decade a decade of explosion of social destruction in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The trafficking of women and girls is perhaps the most tragic aspect of all the social damages. As sex workforce in this market, women and girls are lured in various ways by different rings inside and outside of the country.

Many experts have noted, the presence of Iranian girls as prostitutes in surrounding Arab countries of Persian Gulf is alarming while damaging to the good name of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The network of traffickers entrap young and attractive run-away girls and widows with deceiving promises of a better and prosperous life including marriage to rich men; then they are smuggled across boarders legally and illegally.

Traffickers send these girls to Dubai, Kuwaiti, and Sheikhdom of the Persian Gulf. Even other neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan are hosting these girls.

Upon arrival to these countries, women and girls are taken to hotels, motels, casinos, and clubs as maids or prostitutes; or they are taken to the houses of affluent men as temporary or permanent wives of the riches. The networks’ profit is collected in various forms of payments including checks and promissory notes.

These women and girls face coercion and threats while being stranded in strange countries, yet the hope for a flow of income keeps them from returning home.

These rings and networks are supported by certain people (officials) who create fraudulent documentation in order to transfer these women and girls across borders, place them in different countries, and use them for their business.

The enormous profit of this business creates a tremendous interest in these rings. At the same time, weak laws or lack thereof, has made combating the business of human trafficking, especially women and girls, very difficult. The arbitrary punishments for traffickers range from fines to prison terms based on the preference of the court.

Ali Farsad, a high ranking lawyer of Iran’s Ministry of Justice, says: “It has been noticed that criminals active in these rings are even using legal avenues to escape punishment. This means that in most cases, these criminals use legal channels such as Sharia law to justify their activities. Repeatedly, we see the girls from deprived border cities who are sent abroad after getting married. Also in many cases they are sent abroad on the false promise of finding employment in other countries.”

On the issue of trafficking of women and girls, a military Colonel says: “The exact statistics on trafficking of women and girls does not exist in Iran. However, according to statistics at hand, 4,000 people are crossing the borders on weekly basis under various pretenses. We have no control over them. Just a little a while ago, a network of trafficking Iranian girls was discovered in the Persian Gulf countries. There was a large number of corrupt prostitutes among them. These notorious women used to identify young women and girls from the families with financial difficulties, then under the pretext of happiness for these girls in Persian Gulf countries, they offered a ransom to the families and in a matter of 3 weeks with legal official passports they transferred these girls to Dubai. After arrival in Dubai, through their network, they introduced these girls to Arab businessmen. Each girl was sold for $5000 profit for their families and ten times the amount for the traffickers. The buyers used these girls for their sinister business.”

The Colonel adds: “The girls who run away from home have no idea what the future holds for them. We have 200 missing girls in Tehran, as we speak and we only know of the fate of a few. There are many rings lurking for these young women and girls. They use these run-a-way girls for stealing, trafficking and for illicit drugs and sex. Most of all they use these victims for their organs.”

Every once in a while bodies of unknown girls are found here and there in large cities, particularly in Tehran. Some of these bodies are identified; however most of them are buried without being identified because no one comes to claim their body.

The dealers of human organs are also trafficking girls by promising them a better life and transporting them across borders. Once taken to another country, the traffickers sell the girls’ body parts for enormous amounts of money.

The Colonel adds: “A little while ago, we arrested 15 people responsible for the network of trafficking girls. There were 10 man and 5 women among them who used to entrap girls and take them to Dubai. This ring had two houses in the residential area in the north and center part of the city. The deceived girls were taken to these houses before departing Iran. This criminal ring identified attractive women in Tehran and after arranging all the details transported 50 young girls to the United Arab Emirate on monthly basis. What was most interesting about this ring is that most of the entrapment was done by a young man whose main job was a taxi driver. He drove around town and identified run-a-way girls and took them to these houses. Then other people in the ring take over the cases of these girls and arrange for their visa and passport to go to the UAE. The travel details took no more than a month and were arranged under the pretext of tourism. While waiting for passport and visa, these girls were promised a better and prosperous life and marriage to Arab Sheikhs. However, after entering UAE, they ring members handed these girls over to brothels and prostitution networks.”

Golnaz, an Iranian girl who returned home after months, says: “When they came to our house with a marriage proposal they said they were from Zabol but would like to live in Mashhad. I left my house to relocate to Masshad but found myself in Pakistan. They took me to a city where I was able to use the phone in the neighbors’ house and call to notify my family. As my family was trying to rescue me I was sold to many different clients. They kept me in a house during the day and did not allow me to leave the house. They beat me up badly several times because of my protests.”

This girl was sold for $500 to the network of sex traffickers.

©Translated by WFAFI 2004 All Rights Reserved, for usage please contact info@wfafi.og