Obscene

By Garen Yegparian

We’ve all heard about it.
Some of us know of it first hand.
Some of us snicker about it.
Others brag about their exploits with it.
Some of us are oblivious to it or its horror.

Human trafficking is a long established "tradition." Whatever you call it–slavery–indentured servitude–domestic labor–prostitution–child pornography–they’re all just gradations of the same thing.

Sometimes it might be innocuous. You know–you’ve got a maid who’s in the US illegally. You’ve got a live-in from Armenia taking care of your kids to ease your (arguably) harried life. How about the Filipinas found in snooty Lebanese households? Or the Indian laborers in the Gulf States? You can see the steepening of the slippery slope of decreasing checks on abusive "masters" and even fewer rights and safeguards for these hard-working people.

But what takes the cake is trafficking done for the sex trade. This is not only about going to Thailand to land a virgin. We’re talking about moving hundreds–thousands of (usually) girls across borders. Not only do many Asian countries supply this flow–but so do the states of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Guess who’s included on that list? Better yet–guess what country has become a hub of this industry–with $3.6 billion in PROFITS from it last year. Turkey. And that’s above and beyond the profits from the LEGAL sex industry there.

What triggered this article was a friend telling me two stories he’d heard. One occurs close at hand–if I understood correctly–in the LA area. Five women have been brought from Armenia and now live with five men. Cook–clean–have sex–the whole gamut–with no strings attached–except providing room and board. After some months–they swap the women among themselves. Jarring enough for you? How about this one? On a visit to his home in the panhandle of Iran–an Armenian visits an old family friend–a Turk. This guy asks our visitor to talk to his son’s bride-to-be to tell her they’re good people and not to worry. A bit confused–our friend asks the reason for the request. Well–you see–she only speaks Armenian since she was purchased as a bride from Armenia. When alone–he asks her why she’s done this. Her reply? "Isn’t it better than whoring myself out."

Apocryphal? Exaggerated? Maybe. But there’s something going on–from LA to the Persian Gulf–and it stinks. Ara Manoogian–a repatriate and gran’son of Shahan Natalie has made a documentary about Armenian sex trafficking. It was recently shown in Glendale. Unfortunately–I missed it.

Interestingly–in the period of time since I decided to write this piece–the LA Times has made two references to sex trafficking in Turkey. One was a whole article dedicated to it–relating that more than half of the estimated 5,000 women working as sex slaves are from Ukraine and Moldova. It’s not a challenge to guess whence another significant chunk of that number emanates–especially since we’ve all heard about it anyway.

Of course human rights organizations are working to curb this heinous abuse. They sometimes send people posing as seekers of sex to ferret out where the women are to rescue them or nab the organizers. What’s really interesting is the killing of a priest in Trabizon. Some attribute it to rising Islamic fundamentalism. Some write it off as the work of a lone loony. But according to the LA Times there’s also suspicion that it’s related to organized crime and sex trafficking since that priest had been involved in fighting the "export" of women from the from the FSU–prior to his arrival in Turkey two years ago.

So tell me–are you surprised–shocked–stunned by future-EuroUnion-member-Turkey’s place in all this? Does it make you wonder how we’ve degraded ourselves so much from the time when our ancestors died rather than give up something even as easily retrievable as their religion? Would it bother anybody if someone started knocking off the pimps responsible for this abomination?

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