Syrian refugee girls exploited by prostitution networks

Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East have been subject to humiliation and exploitation, with some girls being sold into prostitution networks.

al-monitor Cars drive past a cabaret nestled on a hill on the tip of Lebanon's Bay of Jounieh, Aug. 3, 2006.  Photo by PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images.

Topics covered

youth, syria, sex trade, refugees, lebanon, human trafficking, exploitation

Mar 13, 2014

There is an ongoing phenomenon involving Syrian girls being exploited for prostitution and minors being sold in all the countries hosting Syrian refugees. Despite media reports that have raised awareness about the issue and the scandals that emerged from the Syrian refugee camps outside Syria, human trafficking is still going on, as many have long been aware.

Minors are being exposed to acts of systematic rape at the hands of those who were supposed to guard them or provide food or other aid.

The details of these ongoing crimes are extensive. The cases of the dirty trade of Syrian girls escaping from the hell of war are remarkably similar, as are the cases of rape in Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, the Gulf states, Iraq and Lebanon. The sexual exploitation of Syrian refugees is not confined to a particular country, and many girls are being sold at auctions.

The stories’ details are a mark of shame on humanity. The media hear stories of fathers and mothers selling their minor daughters in exchange for small sums of money. Some TV programs have re-enacted such cases in order to provoke human feelings.

A widespread phenomenon

The issue of exploiting Syrian girls who are renting their bodies is well known in all the countries mentioned above, including Lebanon, where the phenomenon has become so widespread that Syrian “artists” have supplanted eastern European ones in cabarets and nightclubs in certain tourist areas in Lebanon. [In Lebanon, legally registered prostitutes are referred to as “artists” in official documents.]

The “artists” sector may still somewhat be controlled by certain security agencies. But what’s not controlled are the Syrian prostitutes who have become prominent features on some main Lebanese streets.

Those types of crimes rarely register in the annals of the security forces because of the legal procedures required, inevitably ending with bringing the accused to a public trial. Most of these cases are closed after preliminary investigations at police stations, in ways that don't provoke the prosecutors, who in turn don’t wish to “make a lot of noise” in such sensitive cases. Thus, most of these cases are buried in their early stages, with all those concerned turning a blind eye.

But some of these crimes do get listed in the annals of the Internal Security Forces. Over the past year, 27 cases were recorded involving Syrian prostitutes and their managers, all of whom were arrested and referred to the judiciary.

The stories of sexual exploitation of Syrian minors are many and almost identical. Two networks have recently been caught by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces' morals unit. The networks were exploiting Syrian girls at seaside resorts in the areas of Wadi al-Zaina in Mount Lebanon and in Kfar Abida in the north. It was revealed that the first network, which was being run by a Syrian man and his Lebanese wife, was managing four girls. The second network was managing six girls, some of whom were minors.

Preliminary investigations, which were obtained by An-Nahar, show that the girls in the two networks have been subjected to the worst kind of exploitation. They were forced into prostitution through threats and violent beatings by their managers, who confiscated their identity cards and passports to prevent them from fleeing to the streets, where other networks operate.

The preliminary investigations show that the price of the “exploitation” varies depending on the girl, length of time spent with the girl and the location. The average price for a whole night is about $100. What’s striking is that all the money goes to the network and the girl does not receive any.

Tales and mysteries

Lebanon’s squares and streets have their stories about refugees being exploited in circumstances that are somewhat different from the “resort networks.” Those who pass through those squares and streets know that they are areas for finding clients. A number of girls stand at certain intersections in various Lebanese areas and pretend to be hitchhiking.

Someone knowledgeable about the issue told An-Nahar that minors are being used to the point that they have started competing with “European artists” in Lebanon, and that the prices of the minors are very low, sometimes as low as a few thousand Lebanese pounds, equivalent to just a few dollars.

In addition to this cheap exploitation, most revolting is when some fathers indirectly “sell” their minor daughters by agreeing to hold a so-called “off-the-record marriage” whereby a man offers the father money in return for the father’s approval for the “marriage.” The man then becomes the girl’s manager and rents her to clients without anyone stopping him.

In conclusion, gangs that exploit human beings, tragedies and wars are numerous and active. Urgent action is required at all levels to put an end to it.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Abbas Saleh

Recommended Articles

Libya detains alleged human trafficker sanctioned by UN
Al-Monitor Staff | Human rights | Oct 15, 2020
For Arab youth, the future is in the Gulf
Week in Review | Civil Society | Oct 9, 2020
Trump administration again slashes refugee admissions to new low
Elizabeth Hagedorn | Refugees | Oct 1, 2020
Egypt cracks down on Syrian businesses allegedly tied to Brotherhood
Ayah Aman | Refugees | Oct 3, 2020
Trump mum on refugee admissions despite pleas from Congress
Elizabeth Hagedorn | Refugees | Sep 29, 2020