Modern slavery

“Modern slavery – be it bonded labor, involuntary servitude or sexual slavery – is a crime
and cannot be tolerated in any culture, community or country.
It is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights.”
–Hillary Clinton, June 14, 2010

The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report has been released, and I’ll cut to the chase.  The countries in Tier 3, the lowest tier, “whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so” are:

Congo (DRC)
Dominican Republic
Korea, North
Papua New Guinea
Saudi Arabia

It’s a long report; there is an index of links to specific sections, including the ranking by country, as well as a country by country narrative.  For example, here is the page for an extended discussion of the trafficking situation in Australia. You just gotta love Melbourne, where apparently the sex trade is legal:

In October 2009, a local council in Melbourne introduced an “Anti Slavery and Sexual Servitude Local Law” requiring brothels to display signs in English, Thai, Korean, Chinese and Russian providing information on the crime of slavery and sexual servitude, and on how to seek help for those involved in sex slavery.

I’m not quite sure how to think about this one.  There are so many layers to it, sort of like reading the health warning message on a pack of cigarettes.

But this one creeps me out:

In late March 2010, a Tasmanian court sentenced one trafficker to ten years’ imprisonment for prostituting a 12-year-old girl to more than 100 clients in 2009.

One hundred men paid to have sex with a child??!? In theory I guess I knew there were people in the world with such a warped sense of entitlement, but one hundred of them? On one small island?  What would it be like to actually talk to someone like that, to sit next to them on a bus?

Such things happen on the internet. On a prostitution discussion on one mostly female blog, where “personal is political”, one woman told of how horrible it had been to work as a lingerie model to pay for her education, while others said they would not date a man who was willing to pay a prostitute for sex.  A similar discussion on a mostly male blog had a homosexual male bragging about being victimized in prison, prostituting himself with a royal he didn’t particularly like, and then having sex with underage boys.  Like Jews who become Nazis, he had internalized his own victimization and become a predator himself.  The saddest thing about him was that any attempt to paint the situation as inappropriate was met with hostile accusations of  “ruining a nice thread” and vague waving away of the subject with references to the tradition of beardless boys in Arab homoeroticism–no one was offended either by the exploitation of children or the strutting braggadocio.   So this report airs out the stench in the internet for me and makes me doubly glad to find that I am not just an out-of-step anachronism for having worked in social services and approached these issues as a protector of the powerless; the sense of repugnance that for me is a no-brainer is also the norm in international law.

The report also has a Jordan element.  One of the heroes honored by the report is Jordan’s Linda Al-Kalash, of Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights. I first became aware of Jordan’s immigrant population’s problems when someone gave me a lost Bible in another language and asked me to get it to someone who needed it.  The language turned out to be Sri Lankan, and I passed it on to a pentecostal missionary (don’t ask) who was attending a Sri Lankan church and told me how desperate these women were and how much strength and comfort they got from attending religious services on their one day off.   Their wages were enough to  support their children, husbands, and parents–whole extended families–back in Sri Lanka.  Guest workers who got jobs with foreign nationals were usually treated compassionately, but those who worked for Arabs would almost certainly be sexually assaulted and/or beaten.  If they reported sexual assaults, they would be jailed, charged a fee for overstaying their visas while they were in jail, and eventually deported; there were typically 3 or 4 Sri Lankan guest workers per day showing up at their embassy asking to be repatriated.

For another truly bizarre story, but one with a happy ending, google mechanical camel jockeys and the story of the children who were sold for camel-racing, then starved to keep their weight down.

[Image: U.S. State Department]

18 Responses to “Modern slavery”

  1. Y. Says:

    “Like the Jews who become Nazis”? How pathetic. Maybe instead of projecting the Arabs’ own inadequacies, you should try to deal with the fact 30% of the Tier 3 list countries are Arab.

  2. Nijma Says:

    Well, Y in Tel Aviv (did you know your IP is on three different spam blacklists?), for starters (invoking Godwin’s Law), there was Adolf Schicklgruber/Frankenberger/Hiedler/Hitler, (see The Straight Dope: “Was Hitler part Jewish”) who “had the Nazi law defining Jewishness written to exclude Jesus Christ and himself”.

    And let’s see, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, 2 out of 13 is not 30%. It’s closer to 15%, so you’d best review fractions. Not on the list: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Oman, Yemen, and none of the Emirates, so whatever your point is–and it sounds like an attempt to demonize Arabs–it doesn’t sound too rational.

    Oh, and statistics…best review the difference between correlation and causation as well. (Wikipedia: “Correlation does not imply causation”)

  3. Y. Says:

    First, I included Sudan and Mauritania – both members of the Arab Leauge. 4/13 ~= 30%.

    Second, the only attempt to demonize is yours. Not only Jews have to suffer under the Nazis, per the enemies it sullied them in a way! Worse, you’re really stretching. See [url=]here[/url]. It would be better to mention all those Arabs which supported Hitler – like the Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Hussein which happened to be the leader of the Arab community in Palestine.

    Btw, I’m not actually in Tel Aviv, but that’s not too shabby – In a small country any location would due…

  4. Y Says:

    To start with, I included Sudan and Mauritania – both members of the Arab Leauge. 4/13 ~= 30%.

    Second, the only attempt to demonize is yours. Not only Jews have to suffer under the Nazis, per the enemies it sullied them in a way! Worse, you’re really stretching. See [url=]here[/url]. It would be better to mention all those Arabs which supported Hitler – like the Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Hussein which happened to be the leader of the Arab community in Palestine.

    Btw, I’m not actually in Tel Aviv, but that’s not too shabby – In a small country any location would due…

  5. dwilmsen Says:


    Mauritania is an Arab country too, which when included in the statistics makes the percentage 23%. Otherwise, point taken.

  6. Nijma Says:

    My, my, my, dwilmsen in Beruit and Y on The Other Side, what kind of mischief have you been up to? The wordpress Spam filters are now putting your IP’s straight into my spam dungeon, even when Y switches to a Tampa-based proxy server, which WordPress renders with the same IP-based avatar pattern as the original Middle Eastern IP. Could it be you characters have been typing this sort of prejudice on other websites besides this one? But not to worry, I have rescued your comments from my dungeon so you can enjoy some Free Speech for your bigotry, and so other people all over the world can see for themselves how you think.

    Sudan, meh. Yes, some of them speak Arabic, but they’re more African than anything. And the west coast of Africa is even further from that language group; Palestinians can’t even understand them, even though they might call what they speak “Arabic”. For more links about MSA and the Arabic language see here:
    Especially apropos to the state of today’s Arabic are the languagehat, language log, and Jabal al-Lughat pieces.

    As for Haj Amin, he was “leader” because he was hand-picked by the British.

    Instead of focusing on the Arabic language, maybe you would get better numbers if you try to use skin color as a predictor of slave trafficking (if you dare to go there). 5 of the 13 countries are in Africa.

    Better yet, instead of trying to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye, maybe you can explain what Israel is doing about their own slave trade problem, and why the shell game with the agencies that are tasked to prevent it.
    The section of the report with the Israel narrative is here:

    Click to access 142983.pdf

    • dwilmsen Says:

      I fail to see how my assertion that Mauritania is an Arab country can be taken as being bigoted. In fact, I wrote that short comment in support of your debate with Y in Tel Aviv. I am in no way predisposed against Arabs (look me up, you’ll see). Don’t know why the spam filters are putting my address into your spam dungeon (I suspect that there are firewalls all round Lebanon – very weird things happen in the web environment here).

    • Nijma Says:

      Oh, dear yes, I’m afraid I’ve let the spam filters prejudice me, so sorry. These days there are many internet safeguards in that part of the world and valid reasons for using proxies as well.

      I guess I think of Mauritania as being more French than anything, and in Africa as well, although I understand Creole, English, and Arabic also have their roles.

      For an interesting look at language in Mauritania, or Mars, as they say, try Martian Spoken Here:
      The blog is in French, but the proprietor, Siganus Signator, speaks very nice English.

      Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day.

      • dwilmsen Says:

        Mauritania is a member of the Arab league. Ten members of the Arab league are African: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, The Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Comoros. And a happy Mulid an-Nabiyy to you.

        • dwilmsen Says:

          One more thing: “A quarter of the entire population of people that are categorized as “Arabs” live in Egypt, and 2/3 of all Arabs live in Africa. Despite these numbers, there has been scarce coverage and analysis about how the revolutions in Egypt and in Tunisia are also African events.”

          The quote (a footnote actually) is from a very good précis of Lebanese politics in the context of why Lebanon is not likely to have a revolution.

  7. Y. Says:

    I used a proxy for the same comment because I thought the previous one was blocked. I have nothing to do with dwilmsen, though I can’t blame you for being paranoid given the regime you live under.

    Speaking of which, I suggest being more careful since your current “leaders” also descend from British-appointed ones (Al Amin at least rebelled against them repeatedly and later joined the Nazis before fighting again vs Israel, so he can’t be said to have been a puppet unlike some other people – he had local support, crimes and all).

    Now, I wouldn’t presume to decide who is and isn’t an Arab. It’s your people who have decided to associate with the genocidal Sudanese regime and the slavery-accepting Mauritanian one and included them in the Arab League, and I’ll follow their lead.

    Lastly, immigration issues have come to the political fore in Israel – Israel is a first-world country among developing countries and so attracts migrants – so an immigration task force with new authority has been created to reduce it. One of the issues being debated is how many (if at all) will be allowed to stay…

    It is quite funny you’re complaining about the comparison after starting it in the initial post.

  8. Y. Says:

    Oh, I’m aware of the splintering of Arabic.

    I happened to enroll in one of the few highschools which had compulsory Arabic – the most discouraging thing was finding out the little MSA I learnt would be mostly useless since no one speaks it, so I forgot all about it… I have no idea how I managed to get a decent grade.

  9. Nijma Says:

    Y, I really can’t figure out what you’re going on about with all that ominous “your people” and the “regime you live under” stuff. Clearly there’s something about Chicago politics that rubs you the wrong way, that you seem to be unable to articulate clearly.

    so an immigration task force with new authority has been created to reduce it

    Reduce immigration or reduce slave trafficking? I suspect the former. The report says the immigration and border control authority (“Oz unit”) within Israel’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) that replaced the Immigration Police has done nothing but impede NGO’s that were trying to prosecute trafficking. The government has brought NO cases of trafficking to the courts, all cases that have been brought have been the result of efforts by NGO’s. The Knesset has confirmed the inadequacies of the MOI group. The MOI group has also transferred migrants who make complaints to employers affiliated with the same recruitment agency as the previous employers, where they are coerced into revoking their labor complaints.

    Israel is not on par with the western nations in this matter of human trafficking–they are Tier 2.

  10. Nijma Says:


    Okay, about the Jadaliyya link: Very nice. It’s the second time I’ve seen that website this week. I linked to it here because they had a sensible piece about Egyptian power dynamics.

    I was very impressed with Judith Miller’s book God has Ninety-Nine Names, although I wonder about her political POV. As I recall, the chapter on Lebanon talked a lot about population politics and the influence of Syria.

    BTW, have you seen the Koran verses in the picture frames called “sura Koran” they have over the door leading outside in Arab homes? Maybe Lebanon is more secular and they don’t do it there. Anyhow I was told by my Palestinian tutor the word sura was the same as sura=photograph صورة , but on this thread
    a commenter says it is the same as sura
    =chapter of Koran, spelled with seen سورة . His wife is Egyptian, so I tend to trust her. (Also my tutor was not particularly devout.) Are you familiar with this usage?

  11. dwilmsen Says:

    Your tutor was confused, which can happen.

    سورة is with a س as you can see.

    The source of the confusion must arise in their being framed, which makes them sort of analogous to pictures. But the term would refer to the سورة قرآنية itself and not the picture frame.

    The practice of putting them at or by the door as a charm against evil entering the house is widespread. And people don’t just put them over their doors, they put them all over the house and in their offices too, and in and on their cars and anything else that may need protecting (like babies – then in the form of little gold medallions). Even the not so devout do this. Also, they come in all forms, not just framed panels. A popular one is the so-called “Hand of Fatma” – a representation of a hand, often in brass or blue plaster sometimes with an eye depicted in the palm, often with Quranic verses written on or about the hand itself, or some other charm cast in colloquial Arabic – like ya naas ya sharr kifaya l-‘arr (roughly “O you people O evil – that’s quite enough talk” – the idea is that too much talk – even praise or admiration – about a good thing like a house or a car can bring about misfortune). Sometimes there are little banners with verses written on them, sometimes with one of those cute little (usually Turkish made) glass eyes dangling from it.

    The eye is a very popular motif for ladies jewelery in Lebanon – elsewhere too, but it seems to me that the Lebanese favor it quite a bit more than others.

    So much for the lesson in pop culture.

    I hope you are recovering well and swiftly. Maybe you should have been wearing an eye or a Quranic verse to ward off misfortune!

  12. Nijma Says:

    But of course I have ALL of that stuff. Besides the loot pictured here:
    I also have the hand of Fatima greeting anyone who enters my place, and in the bathroom a garish ceramic fish with dangling eyes and glossy blue glaze. I am missing a Koran verse over the door but have not yet found the right verse. I thought about Corsi Aya or even a biblical verse, but nothing seems exactly right. More research is needed.

    But you’re right, I have the eye in jewelry form and must start wearing it. These are ancient and time-tested focusing techniques and one must simply adopt them without inquiring too closely into how they work.

    I once saw the evil eye removed by singing Koran over the person afflicted, someone who had thrown a party with wealth obtained from a job in America. Perhaps it attracted envy from various guests, manifested as a headache. The person’s mother was a known healer and recited Koran while wiping her son’s head with a kleenex . Every once in a while she would flinch, then at the end she burned the kleenex. The headache was cured.

  13. dwilmsen Says:

    afaarim 3aleeki!

    Ayat al-Kursi specifically is the one I spoke about as being pinned to the clothing of babies, especially girls, to protect them against harm. (They wear them as pendants when they get older.)

    You could put it in a frame by your door too – or facing it, so that when evil enters – or tries to – it will be confronted with the verse!

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