Archive for August, 2011

We want to DO something about Human Trafficking in Kazakhstan

We heard an incredible story at our tri-birthday party that happened just that same day to one of the ladies. I think it best sums up our mission to do something about human trafficking.  Admittedly it is a HUGE problem, what can we do as a little group?

Here’s a good example, she was driving on the Interstate and a driver in front of her looked like they were drunk. The car was going all over the road and then suddenly stopped right in the middle of the fastlane. (!!!)  Big semi trucks and cars were whizzing by at 75 miles an hour!  If it hadn’t been for this meeting tonight and keeping in mind about unfortunates who are used, the teller of this tale might have gone to the right in the slower lane to bypass this erring driver as well.

Turns out it was a very frightened woman from Nigeria or some African country that kept repeating “I am missing, I am missing…” to our friend who had abruptly stopped behind her in an effort to help. That was the extent of the African’s English vocabulary. Finally it was figured out the poor woman was very lost and wanted to get back to the main city where she lived.

Here’s the analogy about what this person (angel in disguise) did to help. God will make opportunities to help others available to all of us.  It is up to us to open the door to walk through to help people who are down and out and not to walk past them (think Good Samaritan story). We, as American women, have options (trafficked victims don’t have any options) to help those in need or we can just speed on by.  Earlier in the narrative our friend had called 911 to report a supposed drunk driver but no help ever came.  Therefore, sometimes you have to take things into your own hands as this person reported to us last night and help those who are in trouble.  Yesterday it was this scared African lady whose “angel” directed her back into town.

What made the evening so amazingly powerful was the energy and dynamic power that undergirds each woman represented. She has a loving husband who supports her and she can speak her mind freely. Sadly, the same cannot be said about those held in bondage as slaves in Central Asia.  That is why we got together last night to discuss ways we can raise money to send to the shelters in Kazakhstan through people I know and trust in Almaty and Astana.

Two months ago, someone came up with the idea to have a rummage sale and everyone admits that they have “stuff” they are willing to part with.  In fact, we in the U.S. have an overabundance of things. These “things” are exactly what the people who are trapped in trafficking need and want.  Some of the necessities such as furniture, kitchenware, bedding, children’s clothes etc. to help their families would be what we would be selling.

In many cases, older Kazakh or Kyrgyz women are tricked into a “too good to be true” scheme because it is fabrication meant to be an enticement.  If only these women knew the truth behind the unbelievable things they hear.  Many times, they are so busy trying to keep life and limb together for themselves and their children because the husband is either an alcoholic, gambler, womanizer or all three and more!!!

That was the summary of what our earlier meeting was several months ago when we first discussed the book “Two Kyrgyz Women.”  We need to make other people aware of this problem that is not only overseas but also at our backdoor.  Someone cited a case where a trafficking ring was busted in South Dakota or along I-29 and I-94 where illegals from Mexico were being used and not paid.  Of course the biggest thing for those unfortunates to step forward is that they have no documents and no rights to be in the U.S. in the first place.

(to be continued)

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“Weeping Camel” movie about nomadic life on Mongolian steppes

National Geographic made a great film titled “Weeping Camel” if you want to know what life on the nomad’s steppe is like in Mongolia. It could just as well have been filmed in Kazakhstan. It showed several Mongolian families in their yurts and featured one of their camels delivering a baby camel.  It took two days and was a very difficult delivery.  The mother camel rejected her baby that was white, which is rare for camels.  I thought the best line in the film is when someone in the family, an older and wiser person said, “We must find a good violinist” to help with the ritual of getting mother and colt back together.  All is subtitled in English because the conversations are all naturally in Mongolian.

Here is how the movie starts, quote taken from

 Now my children I’ll tell you the story of the weeping camel. Many years ago, God gave antlers to the camel as a reward for the goodness of its heart. But one day a rogue deer came and asked the camel to lend him his antlers. He wanted to adorn himself with them for a celebration in the west. The camel trusted the deer and gave him his antlers, but the deer never brought them back. Since then the camels keep gazing at the horizon and still await the deer’s return.

I’m not sure how National Geographic was able to do the filming but they got a LOT of intimate shots of the children getting bathed, baby girl crying when she was put on a leash inside the yurt next to grandma, sharing meals, etc. We also saw the delivery of the baby camel and how they tried to coerce the mother to return to her baby while the baby camel wailed and moaned.  They had to force feed the baby camel from a horn filled with milk from another mother camel.  Arduous work, best that the mother camel do her job as a mother.

The cutest part is the little Mongolian boy about 5-6 years old wants to ride with his older brother on a camel to the nearby town where they must fetch the musician who will do the ritual.  Remember, they must find a good violinist.  Keep in mind that their violin has only two strings but the same kind of bow that we are used to seeing.  It looks like an er-hu that the Chinese play but is boxy instead.

The little boy can’t even mount the camel by himself.  He is in awe of the television set that people have in more civilized areas.  He asks why they can’t have a t.v. and his older brother’s reply is that they have no electricity in their yurt.  They do buy batteries for their grandfather’s radio which is their only connection to the outside world.

I highly recommend renting or buying this DVD. Though it is slow moving, the photography and the story line are great.  I won’t tell you the ending whether the mother camel and her offspring finally get together. That would be a major spoiler to the whole plot of the movie.  Enjoy the extended family, how they live without any outside interference from the rest of the world.  This gives you a clear picture of what life used to be like in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and other parts of Central Asia.  Life is close to nature with herding sheep, cattle, camels and living off the land.  Simple as that.

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Former Kazakh Police Officer Writes about Human Trafficking

I LOVE getting comments from my blog readers! Today’s is very well informed about human trafficking in Kazakhstan.  The following is from a Kazakh person who used to be a police officer in Almaty.

“I have a passion for what I am doing with human trafficking, and I am so happy to meet the person like you, who has a passion for what she is doing.

First time I dealt with a trafficking case in 1996, when I used to work as a police officer. I knew that three victims were trafficked to Emirates and forced to prostitution. I knew who the traffickers were. And I couldn’t do anything, because there was no article in the national Penal Code to charge for trafficking in persons, and the victims were imprisoned abroad for prostitution although they were initially forced to prostitution! And my colleagues and I couldn’t help these young ladies to return, just because there was not any agreement of legal assistance between the Emirates and Kazakhstan…

When these ladies served their sentences and returned to Kazakhstan, they rejected any cooperation with the police and didn’t want their traffickers to be charged. They just wanted no one and nothing to remind them about what happened to them in Emirates… I understood them and respected their choice. But I was really stung… Why was I wearing my uniform if I couldn’t protect these ladies?…

In a few years, I left the police force because I had reached my glass ceiling in that career, and also for family reasons, and started working as a lawyer in a defense lawyers’ office. But very soon I realized that I was still stung with that case of 1996, and, as soon as IOM advertized a position of counter-trafficking program coordinator for Central Asia I applied, and was selected for this position. This was really an opportunity for me to contribute into combating human trafficking much more than I could when used to be just a police officer!

Here’s another comment that I could NOT ignore…

“You wrote earlier in your blog that the shelter for victims of trafficking in Amaty “is funded by the Almaty City government”. I am sorry but this is NOT correct, as this statement makes an impression that the city administration (of government, as you like) is covering all the costs of the shelter. This is not true… The only support the shelter in Almaty ever received from the city administration were very modest salaries for some of its staff. These salaries were provided to the shelter staff who were registered as unemployed at the district administrations at the places of their dwelling in Almaty. The city administration just considered the employment of these individuals in the shelter to be a part of solution of the unemployment problem in the city. So, the issue was that the shelter had employed a few citizens who were unemployed before. The role of the shelter as a place to assist the victims of trafficking was not specially considered by the city administration. Moreover, the shelter director never knows whether the city administration would or would not support these salaries in the next year. And, taking in account that these salaries are extremely modest, she needs to look for more funding to cover the whole amount of her staff salaries.

All the other funding is provided to the shelter by non-governmental donors rather than the city administration.  Some of these donors are: IOM, Almaty International Women’s Club (AIWC), and US Embassy to Kazakhstan.
Of course it is good that the Almaty city administration is supporting the shelter. But please take in account this is a minimal possible support.

There are currently three shelters for victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan. I think people who told you so meant exactly the shelters which serve ONLY victims of trafficking. And there are many other shelters in Kazakhstan, which serve victims of domestic violence, homeless people and other vulnerable individuals. These might be 20 or even more such shelters. Some of these “other shelters” do serve victims of trafficking if this kind of victim is referred to these shelters.  However, in my and my colleagues’ understanding, the nature of the crime of trafficking results in a very serious and specific traumatization, and victims of this crime need very special treatment.

Moreover, the security measures must be doubled for them, in comparison with battered women and other beneficiaries of the “other shelters”. So serving victims of trafficking in a specialized shelter is the best solution for them, while receiving and serving them in the “other shelters” might contribute to their traumatization and vulnerability instead of rehabilitating them.”

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Brave Stories already told in 2008 OSCE Report on Sex Trafficking

Please go to the following site which shows many different details related to sex trafficking.

What a thorough report done for OSCE in Helsinki back in 2008.  However, fast forward three years and I believe that the situation has not improved much for victims of sex trafficking. More funds are needed to rehabilitate and return those victims who were forced into labor or sex exploitation to return to their home countries.  Also, internal migration is a problem in Kazakhstan for those who have no jobs in the rural areas and are trafficked to the big cities of Almaty and Astana and other Central Asian cities that are notably monied with “clients.”

Here’s just a teaser of what you will find in this report written by Yekaterina Badikova.  Brave stories have been already told and there are reasons why this is a self-perpetuation problem due to lack of funds to help the victims:

1) problems with issuing return documents for the victims returning to their home countries;

2) unclear prospects of victims’ future upon the return to the environment pushed her to the victimization before;

3) sustainable trends for deviant behavior demonstrated by some victims;

4) lack of cooperation demonstrated by public health and social services contacted by the NGOs seeking professional assistance for the victims passed the rehabilitation programs;

5) attempts of media to unveil the victims’ personality, notwithstanding of the security and safety requirements;

6) long time of investigation and court hearings and lack of funds and the NGOs’ resources to accommodate and feed the victims in the course of investigation and court hearings;

7) victims rejected cooperation with the police after the case was reported, mainly due to mistreatment by the police who openly demonstrated  stigmatizing attitude towards the victims, and sometimes re-victimized them;

8 ) the police officers’ skepticism expressed very often regarding the possibility to investigate the case successfully;

9) mixing of victims of trafficking and victims of other crimes within one case, and unavailability of funds to assist any other individuals in need but only trafficking victims; 

10) the prejudice towards victims, openly expressed by many government  officials who are responsible for combating trafficking; very weak understanding of the phenomenon of trafficking in persons by those officials, and, because of their rapid rotation from one post to another, low  chances for them to study.

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Victims of Sex Trafficking Need to Bravely Tell their Stories

I’m glad that someone from Almaty, Kazakhstan wrote to me about a correction in an earlier blog I did about shelters for victims of human trafficking.  I wrote about monies made available to their human trafficking shelter by the Kazakh government, it was simply a minimal amount.  I hope to hear more from this Kazakh person involved in an NGO helping those people coming out of sex trafficking and re-entering their own society.  I need her permission to print what she commented on and hopefully how and why she got involved in this business of freeing up victims from sex trafficking.  Everyone has a story…

Here’s the problem with Central Asia and getting the TRUE story from the victims, it is a shame based society.  The Kazakh or Kyrgyz women who were tricked or kidnapped and forced into prostitution will not tell on their tormentors for later prosecution if they are captured.  If they did, these women fear for their lives as well as the lives of their family. The traffickers know how to manipulate the situation to their advantage.  It doesn’t help that the judges can be bribed or bought off with the money traffickers make off of their victims.  The vicious circle continues.

See the following link about how one American woman gained the trust of a woman who had been sex trafficked and eventually freed.  Also, go to the end of this story and view the map of the world and see which countries are in the most trouble reporting this problem.  There are four tiers, the U.S. and Canada are Tier 1 along with Europe and Australia.  Troubling to see the countries that are in Tier 4 and I think Kazakhstan is becoming dangerously close to this. 

Easy for me to say in the comfort of my own home but “victims of sex trafficking need to bravely tell their stories.” Thus they would put an end to the traffickers million dollar business that ruins lives.  Oh, the blogger that puts out pictures of teen girls from Kyrgyzstan for men up to their 50s to date, yeah, the authorities are on to you. Sicko!

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