Syria: Iraqi Refugee Women and Girls at Risk of Sex Trafficking
Monday, October 18, 2010 9:15 AM

Iraqi refugees fleeing to Syria in the wake of the war face substantial threat of being trafficked into sexual exploitation, according to Women's eNews. In Syria journalists have discovered that young women and girls are being trafficked by male family members who arrange marriages with foreigners for their young female relatives in exchange for high dowries; the girls are then put to work as prostitutes by their new 'husbands'. Some women, like Um Ali, flee their families with their children in order to evade this fate, resulting in increased risk of harm from their male relatives. Ali fled her marriage with her four children after her husband threatened to marry off one of their daughters to repay gambling debts. Currently, Ali lives on a UN-stipend of $220 per month as a single, unskilled mother of four in a low-income neighborhood in Damascus. A recent US report indicates that trafficking is a large problem in Syria, but reports surrounding Iraqi refugees' plight is under-documented and unconfirmed.

According to the same report, the Syrian government does not comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to meet these standards. Syria adopted a new anti-trafficking law in April increasing protective measure for victims, as well as levying greater punishments on perpetrators and beneficiaries. The government also hosted a global conference on human trafficking in June to raise awareness of the issue.

 Compiled from: In Syria, Iraqi Refugee Daughters Risk Being Sold, Integrated Regional Information Network , UNHCR, Al-Thara, (12 October 2010).