Posts tagged trafficking

More than a discussion about Human Trafficking (Part III)

I have been invited to be a speaker at a service club in my community.  The following is what I will include in my ppt presentation.  This is the little bit that I know about human trafficking in Central Asia.  First though, I’ll give a background about how I fell into this tough topic that has been a slow burn for me for some years.

Back in the late 1990s when I lived in Kyiv, Ukraine, I knew about the dangers to my students about being trafficked for sex exploitation. Some were very beautiful girls, others dressed rather provocatively. There’s a good reason for dress codes in schools. Also, on the streets were homeless Ukrainian children who probably got snapped up by lying traffickers.  In the mid-2000s, I had heard a story about one particularly bright Ukrainian student who fell into something awful but was smart or fiesty enough to escape.  She wouldn’t talk about it once she returned to her friends at the university, but to this day I wonder how Ivana is doing.

When I went to Almaty, Kazakhstan fall of 2007, I had the book “Two Kyrgyz Women” that was just published the same year fall into my hands. I didn’t read it for another year or so. Thus, I can understand when I give Marinka’s book to someone and they don’t read it right away.  It can be so offputting because it is such a tragedy to read about slavery in Central Asia while living freely in our land of the American Dream.  Sadly, so many in the world live the opposite of the American Dream.

When I suggested that we read it as a book club group when we moved to Astana in January of 2010, the other women of the expat community eagerly agreed.  I had little indication that the hostess of the book club actually KNEW the author, Marinka Franulovic.  That is where I met Marinka and asked for 10 copies of the book so I could give to my Kazakh students who were teachers in the public schools.  After they read it, we invited Marinka to come and talk about this book asking what we could do to help.  When I left Kazakhstan, I was happy to leave about 5-6 big Chinese plastic bags full of my husband and my clothes for the shelters.

Turns out one of my former students DID go to a trafficking shelter recently to find out what it was like.  Here’s what she wrote:

“Since you left many things have happened. You know, I wasn`t sure I could be a change agent. Now I feel like I ought to be. A week ago I went to the shelter in Astana; our dearest Marinka has invited me. What I learnt during the trip was shocking, though I knew the problem.

Unfortunately, the issue of human trafficking is not primary in our country, it is not even discussed as a problem. People see in news that some group of illegal migrants were caught on some construction site, for example, and were sent out of country, but nobody thinks of these people as victims of human trafficking and victims at all. It`s very sad.

The shelter is one storage house in the village near the city, nearly 20 people can be located there. When we went, there were 9 women 20-40 year- olds, one of them was rescued from 15 years long slavery on a farm. The shelter has a psychologist, a doctor and some kind of manager.

Anna is guiding and organizing the whole activity at shelter. Today, I texted to Anna, she wants us to come again! May be I will bring some good movies, they need good films. Also, I am starting the English course for girls from the shelter next week. At least I could help these people continue education. Thank you for making me think about it and desire to change the situation.”

Of course I was happy to read that my former student took this initiative but I plied her with MORE questions.  I want her to be my eyes and ears about what is being done to help these poor people caught in a horrible trap.  Here is another quote that I found on the Not For Sale website:

“Modern-day traders in human property know their business inside out and respond to changes in the market with a speed unmatched by even the most competitive corporations. Their expertise and ability to exploit the market are surpassed only by their disregard for human life. Women are bought, sold and hired out like any other product. The bottom line is profit.”

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More than a discussion about Slave Trafficking in Minnesota

This morning I woke up with a strange dream about bullying and intimidation.  Apparently we had a snow mobile that had been sold to my Dad by a famous snowmobiler in our area.  A Polaris, as I recall, (sorry Arctic Cat.) Three guys roared into our front yard and were taunting and yelling at my dad and the rest of the family.  I stayed inside trying to decide whether to call our neighbor one mile away or call the cops.  My Mom finally came in and said that there are worse things going on in the world, that this was merely a distraction.  I guess the answer was, no, don’t call the police.  I never did hear them roar off but they did leave their tracks all over our snow.  An analogy can be made of this dream with our talk about human slavery in the world, which is still going on for about 30 million unfortunate people caught in a trap.

Last night eight Minnesota women gathered at our home to discuss human trafficking.  Nine of us are very fortunate ladies with loving husbands and a roof over our heads. Yes, thankfully my husband busied himself grilling shashlik (Kazakh version of shish-ka-bob) outside. Once we ate, our discussion took different turns and each contributed from their own experience about what they had read or knew on the topic concerning other cultures.  Mostly they wanted to find out more about what is happening in Central Asia after having read the book “Two Kyrgyz Women” by Marinka Franulovic.

According to Marinka’s book, many women are deemed as nothing in the Kyrgyz culture. Also, the males in the book appeared spineless, the mother-in-law didn’t come off too well either for the second Kyrgyz woman.  If her father had not died, the second woman’s life may have turned out quite differently. He had wanted her to at least get an education, which served to help her use her wits later to escape from her awful situation in Dubai.

We all agreed there was a generational thing going on where the mother-in-law is considered the queen bee. She expects her new daughter-in-law to be broken in as the family servant.  Also, the husbands in this book were rascals and did not take their responsibilities as fathers or husbands seriously.  The two women unwittingly got into trafficking simply because their children needed to be fed, they had no money for food. Both husbands lost money to alcohol or foolish, big dreams.

The question was initially asked, “Why does no one DO anything about this problem of trafficking?” One answer was that there are no good role models to show depth of love or compassion within the family.  Since the Kyrgyz mother-in-law was a “slave” in her husband’s family, she is eager for her son to provide her, in the form of his wife, a new slave to carry the burden of household chores.  With the emergence of yet another change of lifestyle from Soviet times, as of 20 years ago, materialism has set in.  Once nomads of the steppes, now the amassing of things seems to rule over the Central Asian people. Girls and women are further devalued.

Someone commented that the devaluing of life goes on in our country as well.  But we don’t talk much about it when materialism and convenience override whether a woman chooses to extend the life of her baby to full term. (I won’t use the “a” word). Another said that in Central Asian culture they are brought up to expect bad, so bad things follow them. No hope like we in America enjoy.  We were reminded that we grew up believing in the American Dream or having grandparents or great grandparents who had an optimistic attitude. Not so in Central Asia where unemployment in the rural area is very bad. (I’m not sure of the correct statistics).  I DO know 61% of the internal migration are males who are caught in slavery within Kazakhstan. They do heavy manual labor in mines, cotton or tobacco fields or construction labor in the big cities of Almaty or Astana.

Someone pointed out that evil in each men’s heart needs to be purged. What father or mother would sell their daughter? Obviously there’s a market for the sex slave trade simply because men need to have these addictions for their warped appetites filled.  Alcohol, gambling, sex, eating…all the vices are there that preys on those who have next to nothing. The only thing victims have are their bodies for hard labor or for sex or both!

Back to the question of “Who can they turn to for help once caught in the trafficker’s deceitful web?” They need better law enforcement!  In many cases in other countries, not just in Central Asia, but in Mexico or South America you have police who are “in” on this crime. They have no backbone to save those girls or children who are distressed, who are crying out for help. The police, because of low salaries, are driven by greed. They pocket some of the money when they don’t arrest and are paid off by the traffickers.  Someone else mentioned the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson. That is an intense thriller when a father goes after the traffickers to try to save his daughter when she is off on a trip to Europe.  Check that movie out for a dose of reality.

(to be continued)

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