ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Baghdad-based anti-human trafficking organization released its latest report on Saturday, detailing multiple instances of the practice committed by 27 different underground networks it says operate in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
"Most of these networks practice human organ trade and lure women into prostitution networks," said The Iraqi Observatory for Victims of Human Trafficking (IOVHT), in its third report which covers information gathered between the beginning of February and the end of June 2019.
"Victims of trafficking, both female and male, are exposed to many types of sexual violence during the trafficking experience - whatever type of exploitation they are exposed to."
According to the information obtained by the activists and journalists that work with the IOVHT, the criminal networks are often able to convince vulnerable victims to accompany them with promises of a new life in the Kurdistan Region, seen as a safe haven from the insecurity and violence faced by residents of other parts of Iraq.
A 21-year-old male referred to only as SA to protect his identity told the group he was persuaded by one such network to travel from Baghdad to Erbil and then to Duhok to have one of his kidneys removed for a promised payment of 4 million Iraqi dinars (just over $3,350). Afterward, he claimed the five people involved left him abandoned in the room that had been rented to perform the operation with only 400,000 dinars ($335).
The report continued, "There are dozens of women and children who are enticed daily into entering the local and international sex trade world or for begging with promises of a better life and a profitable business."
These networks, it read, "use modern patterns through the internet to trap girls by making false promises," and further warned, "of the spread of girls and children in streets, alleyways, and intersections on the pretext of begging to allow these networks to exploit them sexually and profit from them."
The OIVHT said it "reiterates its call for the protection and assistance of victims of human trafficking with full respect for their human rights, such as adequate housing, counseling, legal information, medical, psychological and material assistance, employment and education."
Iraq's 2012 Human Trafficking Law mandates criminal penalties for those found guilty of "recruiting, transporting, housing, or receiving individuals by force, threat to use force, or other means, including by coercion, kidnapping, fraud, deception, misuse of power, exchange of money, or privileges to an influential person in order to sell and exploit the trafficked individuals by means of prostitution, sexual abuse, unpaid labor, forced labor, enslavement, beggary, trading of human organs, [and] medical experimentation."
The legislation also outlaws other workplace practices common in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, such as the confiscation by employers of workers' identity or travel documents, including passports of foreign workers, because of the unfair leverage it gives employers over workers who often come from vulnerable populations.
On Wednesday, thirteen members of a Kurdish-led gang found guilty of trafficking people from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq into the UK were given sentences of up to ten years by a British court.
“They targeted the Kurdish community and looked to make as much profit out of every individual they could exploit. Their only concern was their profit margins,” said the crime unit.