This photo shows men who were slaves in Kazakhstan and who had escaped their “forced servitude” about two years ago. When I lived in Almaty and Astana, I would see men going to their work sites looking somberly out their bus windows. They wore heavily padded jackets to keep the cold of Astana out, but the coldness of Kazakhstan’s hearts towards these men who had believed in empty and false promises rubbed them raw.
I remember one Russian looking man on the sidewalk near Baiterek had started to approach me when I had first moved to Astana in Feb of 2010. He looked all bloodied up on his face but since I don’t have a good grasp of Russian, I moved across the street to avoid talking to him. Obviously he needed help and that scenario still haunts me, he may have been an escaped trafficked manual laborer.
Difficult to tell what nationality these men in the photo are because as they were covering their faces with the donated clothes they were trying on. After what they have been through, they do NOT want to be slaves again. Keeping their identity secret so they can go back to their home country to be with friends and family again was probably uppermost in their mind. Of course, they had their documents taken from them once they had entered Kazakhstan and they were afraid of the authorities probably not knowing any Russian or Kazakh. This is the nature of the beast, to find vulnerable victims who are desperate in their poverty and wanting to earn money to send back home to their impoverished families.
I remember talking to one Norwegian woman who was married to an American. He was an electrician or technical assistant to one of the Turkish firms building a complex in Almaty. He noted that many of the men who worked alongside him were not being paid for months on end. He brought it up with his superiors and they told him to mind his own business. A conspiracy of silence continues because there are language barriers and multiple nationalities putting up the buildings in Kazakhstan and others are financing them.
Manual labor is definitely needed in Astana, Kazakhstan particularly. That is why I focus on “human trafficking” and NOT sex trafficking. I witnessed men being used and working in miserable conditions. However, this New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof was alarming revealing what is going on with sex trafficking on the Internet. I would suspect that manual labor and finding men out in the boondocks would not be put on an Internet page. I think these traffickers have to actually go out to the Kyrgyz villages and drum up their business, face to face.
I’d be interested to find an article about what men go through once they come out of their prison of despair and hard work.