This is an excerpt from Victor Malarek’s The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade. It serves as an introduction to today’s post on the crimes of international peacekeepers, development workers, and army personnel in conflict zones. Malarek interviewed a young woman named Olenka who was held as a sex slave in the northern Bosnian town of Tulza (as seen in picture), whose story is as follows:
“I went with between eight and fifteen men a night. I did not want to have sex with any of them. If I did not do as I was told, my owner said I would be beaten to death. This man was cruel and vicious. You did not cross him.”
In the moments she was held captive, Olenka figures she was raped more than 1800 times. The men each paid the owner $50. The never saw a penny. On one particularly harrowing evening she was passed around to a dozen soldiers. The men were rambunctious, celebrating a birthday in the bar. One of their buddies had turned twenty-one. She was the birthday present…for the entire platoon. Whatever the peacekeepers wanted, she was forced to give.
“The entire time, I must smile and make them believe I am enjoying this humiliation,” Olenka said in a barely audible whisper. “These men were animals. They cared nothing that I was there as a prisoner. They simply wanted sex.”
She doesn’t know the names of any of the men who used her over that period, but she remembers the uniforms and the inisginias emblazoned on their shoulder – American, Canadian, British, Russian, French. Many were soldiers. Some were police officers with the UN. Others were among the thousands of workers – with either the myriad international agencies or the UN – that flooded the region after the conflict. Many times, she would plead for help. Some of her international ‘patrons’ had cell phones dangling from their belts. She asked them to let her make just one call. They all refused.
“We Serve to Make the World a Safer Place” is ironically one of the slogans of DynCorp, which employed many of these peacekeepersÂ in Eastern Europe who bought and sold trafficked women. DynCorp’s employees whose actions made this slogan a cruel joke were never even prosecuted for their crimes. This is a sad reality in many conflict zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
An eight-year-old U.S. policy that forbids government contractors and employees to engage in sex trafficking in war zones has been nearly impossible to enforce, due to limited investigative resources, questions of jurisdiction, and the difficulty in differentiating between “voluntary prostitution” and “sex slavery.”
According to an article by Dayna Fransesca Haynes, 90% of sex workers in the Balkans are estimated to be trafficked. Though it is extremely difficult to prove this statistic due to the clandestine nature of trafficking and prostitution, it is safe to say that men who pay for sex in the Balkans have a fairly good chance of ending up with a victim of trafficking. Considering that countries that had never before been destination countries for trafficking victims suddenly see an influx of these girls and women when international workers set up shop in an area, it is quite clear that demand is being created by guys who are supposed to be promoting peace.
What message does this send out? Haynes says is best:” governments working to ‘democratize’ developing countries do not really care about eradicating trafficking.” It is hard to set a good example of peace and freedom to local authoroties if those supposedly spreading it are guilty of the opposite.
For more information on the current situation in Afghanistan, check out U.S. Policy a Paper Tiger Against Sex Trade in War Zones by The Washington Post.