Writer: Nethra Jayaprakash is an opinionated advocate for change who wishes to make her mark on the world through her writing.
Oscar Wilde once said “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” His words prove true, not just in terms of consensual sex but in relation to the active sex trade flourishing in Syria. As the influence of ISIS continues to grow in Syria, the sex trade they run continues to expand , extending its own influence and power over people to encompass not just those in Syria, but the refugees who have escaped from there as well.
A quintessential example would be of a child recently featured in the news, who even after escaping the trafficking ring , remained traumatized and fearful that her rapists and captors would come back for her. She had been sold eight times in the ten months she had been held captive, and in her refugee camp, grew so terrified that she would be resold like cattle once again that she set fire to her own face, burning off her own ears and nose, so that she would be too disfigured for any man to want to attack her. Dr. Jan Ihan Kizilhan, a German medic in the girls’s refugee camp, had her flown to Germany, where after undergoing multiple surgeries, she still has more than thirty skin graft procedures left. This girl’s fear of being thrown back into the sex trade compelled her to harm herself to a point from which there is no coming back- physically changing her life forever.
However damaging the girl’s action were to herself, her reasons for burning herself were not unfounded. Almost 3,500 women and children have been forced into slavery in Iraq and Syria, some as young as eight. And even those who have escaped those countries face the risk of being drawn back into slavery. Refugee families out of Syria, desperate for money, will often marry their daughters off with the hope that their children will have better lives, only for those girls to be turned into the trafficking ring to be abused and treated as an object for men to use at will. Even more dangerous are the smugglers, whom families trust with their lives, who have been known to drag young girls left unattended into the Syrian trafficking ring to be bought and sold.
Female refugees, young and old, do not just face the dangers of being caught by ISIS when fleeing Syria, starvation, extreme poverty and disease as males do, but additionally, the chance of being drawn into the vast network of prostitution that has flourished under the eyes of ISIS. The rise of ISIS has not only commandeered Syrians’ way of life and forced them to flee, but has fed the power of their underground sex trade to a point where it hurts even women who have escaped Syria. The sex trade continually decides and influences refugees’ daily actions, as with the girl who burnt herself, and the families who, reluctant to marry away their daughters, slowly starve to death. Its establishment will be a warning as to what might befall them and what has befallen others like them.