Child prostitution in the Pentagon’s ‘new’ Iraq

This 2016 video is called Iraqi refugees in Lebanon: a forgotten crisis.

Yeah, George W Bush really “liberated” Iraq … [sarcasm off].

From Safe World for Women:

Studies by human rights groups in Iraq have found that there are a growing number of child prostitutes among Iraq’s many displaced persons. NIQASH went to Basra’s markets where the underage sex workers ply their unhappy trade.

Naji is a porter in the markets in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. His job involves loading his heavy iron trolley with shoppers’ goods, then pushing them from the marketplace to the nearest taxi stand. Naji is a heavy smoker, addicted to both nicotine and narcotics – habits picked up when he first started working as a porter here. Looking tired, he says that these days he also works as a male prostitute.

Naji is 15 years old; he’s been working here since he was 12. …

A 2008 study undertaken by the well known Iraqi human rights organization, Al Amal (Hope), found that 72 percent of children of displaced families residing in Nasiriya, near Basra, were engaged in work inappropriate to their age, often more than seven hours per day, such as street cleaning and portering. The study, which surveyed 411 families with a total of around 1,200 children, also found that a lot of the child labourers were selling drugs or their own bodies.

Basra human rights activist, Sami Toman, believes that things are not that different in Basra. “That’s despite the fact that Basra is the richest city in the country with regard to resources and oil,” he added.

It is difficult to ascertain how widespread child prostitution is in Iraq – a lot of the children involved won’t talk about it because they have been threatened by those who use them.

But observers believe child prostitution is particularly widespread among Iraq’s displaced families – that is, families who have been forced to flee to other areas due to sectarian or other violence in their hometowns. And there are an estimated one million displaced persons in the thriving southern province.

“Child abuse is a new phenomenon and it has emerged over the past three decades in Iraq, due to the abnormal circumstances here,” Toman explained. “And these children cannot escape the conditions their families live in. They’re victims of this disintegrating society. They’re doomed to a miserable life.”

Naji explains that he works as a prostitute so that he can provide for his family – he has three younger brothers, his father died in 2003 and his mother struggles alone. Often Naji will simply leave the house for work and won’t come back for days at a time – yet nobody seems to miss him.

“And when I return home, I come back with money. When they see the money they just take it and they don’t ask me where I got it from,” Naji adds.

And the teenager is not the only child working as a prostitute in the Basra markets. You can see plenty of other children, in ragged clothes, with dirty faces, touring the market place – some of them beg, others sell nylon bags and many fight over left over scraps of food.


One of Naji’s friends, Ahmed, is in a similar situation. The skinny 14-year-old, from a family that had to leave the Babel province during 2006’s violent sectarian conflict, sells himself for between US$5 and US$10.

The pair addresses each other as “mister” as though they were adults.

“When my father passed away, none of our relatives would help us. So I was forced to leave school and start working as a porter in this market,” Ahmed says.

I have to work

Ahmed and his mother live in the slums that surround Basra city. Much of their neighbourhood is home to other displaced Iraqis, all of whom fled their homes in search of a better, more peaceful life and employment in oil-rich Basra.

The slums are known as Hawasem. It means “decisive” in Arabic and is the word that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used to use to describe the war he said he would fight against the US military. Now it’s used in an ironic way, to describe the slums and also a variety of illegal acts.

“We live in one room in a house that we share with three other families,” Ahmed relates. “My mother says I have to work every day and if I don’t get some money then I am not allowed to sleep inside the house.”

Ahmed also carries a knife around with him in a leather holster. “I need it because there are other young guys here who will try and take my spot in the market. It’s dangerous to move around the market at night,” he explains.

‘We don’t care anymore’

A lot of the scruffy children in the market are ill treated by more fortunate locals. But Ahmed and Naji are used to the verbal abuse.

“We don’t care anymore,” Ahmed says. “Working as porters, we didn’t make enough money. And I need to bring my mother money every day.”

In Iraqi law penalties for anyone who sexually abuses children are severe, and can even amount to capital punishment. The child prostitutes themselves can also be arrested and incarcerated in special juvenile detention centres for long periods. However the law mostly isn’t applied.

“Although the law is very strict, there really is nobody to protect these children,” local legal expert and council member, Tariq al-Abarseem, notes. “The police don’t take their responsibility toward the children seriously, and they don’t apply the law.”

At one stage, the local government planned a community policing initiative to try and help solve this problem and protect the children. Similar schemes run in Baghdad and elsewhere around Iraq. However soon after the first community policing station opened in the Zubair district in February, it was closed again.

The community police has a role that sits somewhere between the ordinary citizen and the regular police; they were supposed to find neighbourhood solutions when there were problems between neighbours, tribal leaders and family groups. But they became unpopular in Basra almost immediately when they began asking about religious backgrounds and, according to locals, interfering in people’s private lives. In March, the community policing idea was abandoned.

Everyone knows the abusers

Still, it does sound as though it would not have been too hard to do something about the child sex workers. According to merchants who work in the market everybody knows who the locals are, who are using the child prostitutes.

“But nobody wants to interfere because some of them are powerful people,” the owner of a store selling dairy foods told NIQASH. “And the government doesn’t want to take any action either.”

“Some of these people come here by car or by motorcycle.

They take the children during the day and night to certain places, where they abuse them and use them for prostitution, for selling drugs or for stealing,” the store owner said.

“Some of those people are dangerous. And,” he added, “there are also a bunch of local merchants who abuse the children.

They talk about it when they’re sitting around together and they boast about the number of children they’ve abused.”

“I have a good relationship with a couple of the merchants in the market,” under-age prostitute Ahmed admits. “One of them takes me to his house and I stay there for one or two days. He sometimes brings his friends too. And he’s become a friend of my family.”

Lawyer al-Abarseem says that if someone is caught abusing children then the matter is usually settled in a tribal way, away from any official channels. “For example, a person was found guilty of child abuse in Zubair a few days ago. But the matter was solved in a tribal manner,” al-Abarseem says.

Although religious or political figures may get involved, usually the “tribal process” centres on mediation between the two conflicted parties by a family elder, or tribal leader. The mediator determines the facts of the case and works out what sort of reparation is suitable, according to tribal legal codes before enacting some kind of communal reconciliation. In the recent Zubair case, the abuser was forced to move away and pay money to the victim’s family.

The social welfare system has not managed to help the child prostitutes either. Social welfare payouts for a family of five work out to be around IQD120,000 (around US$100) per month.

All of which means that for the time being children like Naji and Ahmed will be forced to continue their unhappy work in Basra’s marketplace. Ask them about their thoughts on the future today and they’ll just tell you that, for the time being, they don’t think about the future.

The best they can do at the moment, they’ll tell you, is just to get through each day.

Kurdish journalist Ako Khalil Zada fled Iraq after colleagues were killed—but the British government is trying to send him back and he is under threat of eviction from his Glasgow home: here.

11 thoughts on “Child prostitution in the Pentagon’s ‘new’ Iraq

  1. this is what the U.S. bring to the countries they occupy
    this must be a message to all countries that call for the help of the U.S. (especially this Syrian fake revolution)


  2. Hi Hasan Ismail, thanks for your comment.

    I agree on military intervention by the USA (or other countries).

    Was the movement in Syria “fake” from the beginning? Or did it start off, at least initially, with good intentions, and came corruption by NATO etc. later?

    I have written on my blog on this kind of questions, eg, the case of Libya:

    As for Iraq: if Bush would not have invaded, then probably Saddam would have been driven away like Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia were driven away. Without Bush’s lies on non-existent Iraqi WMD, without lies on non-existent Iraq-al Qaeda links, without over a million dead, without millions of injured people, without millions of refugees, without torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, as happened because of Bush’s “humanitarian” intervention.



    April 24, 2012

    The people versus total war incorporated



    KUALA LUMPUR, 12 April 2012 – The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal will be hearing the second charge of Crime of Torture and War Crimes against former U.S. President George W. Bush and his associates namely Richard Cheney, former U.S. Vice President, Donald Rumsfeld, former Defence Secretary, Alberto Gonzales, then Counsel to President Bush, David Addington, then General Counsel to the Vice-President, William Haynes II, then General Counsel to Secretary of Defense, Jay Bybee, then Assistant Attorney General, and John Choon Yoo, former Deputy Assistant Attorney-General. The charge reads as follows:

    The Accused persons had committed the Crime of Torture and War Crimes, in that: The Accused persons had wilfully participated in the formulation of executive orders and directives to exclude the applicability of all international conventions and laws, namely the Convention against Torture 1984, Geneva Convention III 1949, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter in relation to the war launched by the U.S. and others in Afghanistan (in 2001) and in Iraq (in March 2003); Additionally, and/or on the basis and in furtherance thereof, the Accused persons authorised, or connived in, the commission of acts of torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment against victims in violation of international law, treaties and conventions including the Convention against Torture 1984 and the Geneva Conventions, including Geneva Convention III 1949.

    The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC) following the due process of the law is bringing this charge against the accused. In 2009, the Commission, having received complaints from torture victims from Guantanamo and Iraq, proceeded to conduct a painstaking and an in-depth investigation for close to two years. Two charges on war crimes were drawn and filed against the accused persons.

    The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal had heard the first charge in November 2011 against the two accused, former U.S. President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Anthony L. Blair who were after a 4-day trial found guilty of Crimes Against Peace. These two former heads of state violated the United Nations Charter and international law when they planned, prepared and invaded the sovereign state Iraq on 19 March 2003 without just cause.

    At the first hearing in November 2011, the Tribunal had permitted the prosecution’s application to hear only the first charge. The second charge will now be heard at the second Tribunal hearing from 7 – 12 May 2012.

    The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal is constituted of eminent persons with legal qualifications. The judges of the Tribunal, which is headed by retired Malaysian Federal Court judge Tan Sri Dato Lamin bin Haji Mohd Yunus, who also served as an ad litem judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Republic of Yugoslavia, include other notable names such as Mr Alfred Lambremont Webre, a Yale graduate, who authored several books on politics, Tunku Sofiah Jewa, practising lawyer and author of numerous publications on International Law, Prof Salleh Buang, former Federal Counsel in the Attorney-General Chambers and retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Sa’ari Yusof.

    Point to note is that victims of torture will also be called give evidence before the Tribunal. The cries of these victims have thus far gone unheeded by the international community. The fundamental human right to be heard has been denied to them. These witnesses will testify on the torture they had endured during their incarceration. The accused will have a right to cross-examine them as in any open court hearing.

    The Tribunal will adjudicate and evaluate the evidence presented as in any court of law. The judges of the Tribunal must be satisfied that the charges are proven beyond reasonable doubt and deliver a reasoned judgement.

    In the event the tribunal convicts any of the accused, the only sanction is that the name of the guilty person will be entered in the Commission’s Register of War Criminals and publicised worldwide. The tribunal is a tribunal of conscience and a peoples’ initiative.

    The prosecution for the trial will be lead by Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar, prominent law professor and author of several law publications and Prof Francis Boyle, leading American professor, practitioner and advocate of international law, and assisted by a team of lawyers.

    The trial will be a public hearing held in an open court on 7-12 May 2012 at the premises of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW) at 88, Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur. The hearing is open to members of the public.

    For further information, please contact : Dato’ Dr Yaacob Merican, Secretary General of the KLWCC Secretariat, Tel: +6012-227 8680 ■ Ms Malkeet Kaur, Media Representative of KLWCC,, Tel: +6012-3737 886
    contact The BRussells Tribunal
    more information about the educational situation in Iraq


  4. Questions over court delays trial

    Iraq: The trial of Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi for running death squads has been put back a week as judges mull whether to set up a special court to try him.

    He fled to northern Iraq, which has its own security forces, in December and is now in Turkey.

    The government accuses him of having a hand in 150 bombings and getting his bodyguards to kill government officials, police officers and Shi’ite pilgrims.

    Mr Hashemi, a Sunni, says the charges are politically motivated.


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