U.S. Government to Iraqi Sex Slaves: Sucks for You, But We’re Out

U.S. combat troops may have left Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule, but they left something pretty significant behind: upwards of 50,000 Iraqi women trafficked into the sex trade as a result of the war. President Obama may not have stood on an aircraft carrier to pat himself on the back, but shirking America’s duty to protect women forced into prostitution as a result of our invasion of Iraq is a definite “Mission Accomplished” FAIL. Ask the U.S. help trafficked Iraqi women now that combat troops are gone.

Sex trafficking often thrives in conflict-laden areas, and Iraq has been no exception. The war has left huge numbers of female-headed households, either by death or divorce, in a country where women haven’t traditionally had access to the same job and educational opportunities as men. It has also left large numbers of orphaned children or children whose families are in deep turmoil. Many of these women and children have fled the violence in Iraq to neighboring Syria and Jordan, hoping to find a way to support their families and themselves. However, the job opportunities for uneducated women in Syria and Jordan have been limited, and the traffickers are waiting to pounce.

There are an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugees in forced prostitution in Syria. They range from mothers trying to feed their children to young girls left alone by the war and trying to survive. Many of the women traveled to Syria looking for work in factories, but there was none to be found. Refugees from violence and without many marketable skills, they made easy targets for sex traffickers. Others, especially young female virgins, are trafficked out of Iraq by family members and sold into marriage or prostitution. But regardless of the path into trafficking, so many of these women and girls were vulnerable to trafficking because of the violence and chaos left by the Iraq war. Their lives are the mess the U.S. government is leaving behind.

However, as Sebastian Swett and Cameron Webster point out at the Nation, there is one relatively easy step the U.S. State Department can take to help women trafficked into the sex industry during and after the Iraq war: classify them as P-2 refugees.

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