Friday, September 26, 2008


A Heroine From the Brothels

In his op-ed column, “A Heroine From the Brothels,” in yesterday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof focused needed sunlight on the worldwide epidemic of sex trafficking, which he noted, “is widely acknowledged to be the 21st-century version of slavery, but governments accept it partly because it seems to defy solution.”

However, I’m disappointed that Kristof did not include at least a passing reference to the thousands of Iraqi women and girls, many under 14, who were forced into prostitution as a result of Bush’s and the GOP’s War on Iraq.

These young victims are part of a massive flood of refugees from Iraq—conservatively estimated at more than 2,000,000 through 2007 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The 2,000,000 refugees who fled Iraq constitute almost 8% of Iraq’s population. On a per capita basis, this is equivalent to about 23 million Americans fleeing the United States, or eight times the entire population of Iowa. (Another 2,500,000 Iraqis—10% of Iraq’s population—are war refugees within Iraq.)

The vast majority of Iraq’s refugees outside Iraq live in Syria and Jordan, where they cannot work legally. As a result, tens of thousands of Iraqi women and girls—estimates range to 50,000 and more—have been forced into prostitution in order to survive.

Some have been pimped by male relatives, and many more fear being hunted down and killed by relatives or Iraqi militias, many of whom believe prostitutes must be punished with death.

I believe America’s corporate media, including The New York Times, have taken it upon themselves to protect American sensibilities from the horrors of war. And rather than focusing blame and punishment where it belongs, it’s safer to sweep everything unpleasant under the rugs of “unintended consequences” and “collateral damage.”

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