The population most vulnerable to pernicious predators are refugees.

By:Dee Rivers

As you read this, in the cauldron of human crisis that is Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq, 862,000 souls -- over three-quarters-of-a-million mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, little boys and little girls are victims of human trafficking. Theirs is a lightless world, darkened by the disappearance of right and wrong.

The population most vulnerable to pernicious predators are refugees.

They are snatched from roads as they flee homeland tribulation.

They are lured by liars with promises of work.

They are stolen from chaotic camps.

They are sold by loved ones who are desperate beyond conscience.

They are forced into indentured servitude, sex slavery, begging rings, and child-soldier training.

They are forced by fellow-countrymen gangs inside countries of refuge to work as forced agricultural labor.

They are made beasts of burden.

Today, servitude escapee Abbott* is 11 years old, an orphaned Syrian refugee with a shredded life and night terrors, a stomach always sour with anxiety and a brain constantly questioning why he did not die with the rest.

The memory of it all scurries in and out like a rat ...

It is his seventh birthday. There are just enough ingredients left in his family’s war-depleted cupboard for his mother to bake a humble cake. His two older sisters are setting out plates for the treat; his mother is walking to the table with seven forks; his two younger brothers hop from foot to foot, delirious for the rare sweet; his thin, failing father is in a chair at the table, rubbing his right shoulder where his arm had been before it was hacked off by a militant wielding a blade of Damascus steel, punishment for stealing from the militia stockpile a small box of bulgar and six sheep’s feet to make makkahem to feed his family.

In an eye-blink of time a howitzer evaporates the scene, leveling half of the small sand-block houses on Abbott’s street. He is badly bruised but miraculously breathing beneath smoky rubble.

Terrified, he stays motionless, facedown, afraid the tiny movement of dust made by his breath there on the floor will give him away if “they” come. Finally there is deep-night darkness; he crawls out into the silent ruination of his home, past the body bits of his family, into moonlight that is not his friend.

And he knows enough to stay in shadows.  

After sunrise, though, there are no shadows on the open road, and Abbott, a straggler among strangers making their way to the Turkish border, is noticeably alone.  At dusk, a truck-driving farmer from the Euphrates valley cruises among the refugees who have just made the crossing, slows alongside Abbott and asks about family. He shakes his head, no. The farmer motions toward the truck bed. Little Abbott sore and slow, climbs in...

… It took nearly four years for him to climb out ... out of the sadistic sleeping farmer’s window after it broke in the wind, out past the pistachio trees his small hands had shaken to harvest nuts until his fingers bled, out past the sheep manure he’d had to keep shoveled into a perfect pyramid, out past the whipping post, out into deep-night darkness, into moonlight that was not his friend. And he knew enough to run. And run. And run.

Slavery occurs when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence to maintain that control, exploits them economically, pays them little or nothing and they cannot walk away.”

Late last year, how-to instructions on the capture, holding, and sexual abuse of female slaves, including young girls, were publicly distributed in occupied Syria. Diverse groups there force Syrian children to become soldiers, use them as human shields, and force boys as young as six to cut off the heads of certain prisoners.

On rare occasions, justice emerges: In December 2014, six  men who, for two years, forced a 17-year-old female Syrian refugee into 21 “temporary” marriages to foreign men and to suffer seven excruciating primitive surgeries to “restore her virginity,” were investigated in their homeland and await prosecution there.

 

Elsewhere, thousands of Yzidi women and girls from Iraq have been forcibly taken to Syria and sold or given to fighters for forced marriage and domestic servitude where they suffer systematic rape and sexual violence. 

However, like a beacon, GHNI’s House of Esther, in Spitak, Armenia, exists to provide refuge and rehabilitation to victims of such trauma and brings hope and health to their fractured lives. Survivors’ staggering mental, emotional, and physical needs require the specialized response and care made possible by the psychological counseling and medical care they receive at the House of Esther. 

While outreach to, and embrace of, victims who survived and escaped the horrors of slavery is critical, GHNI believes the prevention of human trafficking is paramount and possible through the educational and empowerment tools of its Transformational Community Development (TCD) program, including classes in how to identify and avoid predators, how to mitigate risks in the course of day-to-day living, and ways to earn a sustainable income.

Will you join GHNI’s effort  to continue   making possible the tools of TCD to educate and empower those most vulnerable to slavery?

Your heartfelt help to GHNI’s safe havens of healing for traumatized victims of trafficking can rewrite the future of the hidden and hurting children like Abbott.

"Healing: The process of making or becoming sound or healthy again. "

*Abbott and his story are representative of the events in the lives of Syrian children that lead to their abduction into human trafficking.