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Turkish researcher presents findings on human trafficking
Altunas presented the results of her research and investigation into the crime of human trafficking in her native Turkey at a lunch forum yesterday in downtown Minneapolis’ IDS Center. The event was sponsored by Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and Briggs and Morgan Professional Association as part of their “Women’s Human Rights” series.
According to The International Organization for Migration (IOM), human trafficking is the second largest, fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, second only to illegal drugs. It is also the most profitable criminal activity for funding transnational organized crime. Because of its geographic location as a bridge between Asia and Europe, Turkey is a destination country for human trafficking.
According to Altunas and IOM data, the victims of trafficking trade come mainly from the former Soviet satellites, from impoverished countries like Moldova, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Georgia. People are tricked by promises of employment or false marriage proposals. Some children are sold by their parents, Altunas said.
The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons cites “forced or coerced labor, servitude, slavery or sexual exploitation” as areas of profit for human traffickers. And, according to a story appearing on Reuter’s news service last Thursday, “the IOM is alarmed over rising cases of trade in human organs.”
But, although pinning down solid numbers is difficult because of its covert nature, experts agree that the forcing of young women and girls into the sex trade is the largest and most lucrative goal of the business of human trafficking.
Eighteen people were arraigned in federal court on charges of prostitution and human trafficking as a result of arrests in South Minneapolis on May 23.
“At least 97 percent of the traffic is for the purposes of sexual exploitation,” said Altunas. “One out of three women trafficked to Turkey are mothers who are lured by chances of making a better life for their children,” she said.
A Turkish ad campaign designed to help these victims features the face of a young child asking the question, “Have you seen my mother?”
Turkey has also begun a 24-hour hotline for trafficking victims, distributing information cards that list the hotline number with the plea, “If anyone takes away your passport, your freedom or forces you to perform work of any kind without pay, call the helpline.” The cards are printed in four languages and are being handed out at border crossings and transportation hubs.
During her presentation, Altunas read from a letter from a woman who had been detained in Turkey that read in part, “I am a 27-year-old woman with two children. Because of there being no jobs in my country, I did not hesitate when a man offered me a job in Turkey. I planned to go to Turkey and work for awhile, save some money and then return to my children,” she said.
“I was met by a man at the airport in Turkey,” she continued. “He took my passport and then drove me to a house and told me I was now going to work in the sex business. I told him that I did not want to do this, but he would not let me leave. The first day I was forced to have sex with six men,” she said.
Altunas said the letter writer eventually heard of the victims’ hotline and was able to be returned to her children. According to IOM Ankara, 536 trafficking victims were assisted between 2004 and 2007. The great majority of them were woman between the ages of 18 and 24.
©2007 Pulse of the Twin Cities