Two Iraqi mothers tell CNN they turned to prostitution to help feed their children: "It's a taboo that no one is speaking about," says Yanar Mohammed, head and founder of the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, and adds:
"There is a huge population of women who were the victims of war who had to sell their bodies, their souls and they lost it all. It crushes us to see them, but we have to work on it and that's why we started our team of women activists." Her team pounds the streets of Baghdad looking for these victims often too humiliated to come forward.Can you imagine anything worse? Are family and government safety nets not working anymore? Why isn't there (more) support for widows? Why can't coalition forces and the Iraqi army hand out enough food for all hungry women and children?
"Most of the women that we find at hospitals [who] have tried to commit suicide" have been involved in prostitution, said Basma Rahim, a member of Mohammed's team. The team's aim is to compile information on specific cases and present it to Iraq's political parties -- to have them, as Mohammed puts it, "come tell us what [they] are ... going to do about this."
Rahim tells the heartbreaking story of one woman they found who lives in a room with three of her children: "She has sex while her three children are in the room, but she makes them stand in separate corners." According to Rahim and Mohammed, most of the women they encounter say they are driven to prostitution by a desperate desire for survival in the dangerously violent and unforgiving circumstances in Iraq.
Al Jazeera English does not have the answer, but points out:
Prior to the US invasion, Iraqi widows, particularly those who lost husbands during the Iran-Iraq war, were provided with compensation and free education for their children. In some cases, they were provided with free homes. However, no such safety nets currently exist and widows have few resources at their disposal. (...)
Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the ministry of women's affairs says that there are at least 350,000 in Baghdad alone, with more than eight million throughout the country.
As Iraqi families continue to fall on hard times, some have been forced to make the most painful of decisions - selling their daughters. Abu Ahmed, a handicapped father of five who is himself a widower, sold his daughter Lina to an Iraqi man who came to Iraq to "shop" for sex workers. Abu Ahmed said he could not afford to buy food for his other children.
The Independent writes about prostitution by refugees in Syria:
There are more than a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, many are women whose husbands or fathers have been killed. Banned from working legally, they have few options outside the sex trade. No one knows how many end up as prostitutes, but Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi women's group Women's Will, puts the figure at 50,000.
In June 2007, the Atlantic Review wrote about Iraqi refugees turning to sex trade in Syria and asked: More Terrorism to Expect due to "Lost Honor" of Iraqi Sunnis?