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Job Offer In Turkey: How A Kyrgyz Mother Fell Victim To Sex Traffickers

Diana K., a 26-year-old Kyrgyz housewife, says she fell victim to sex traffickers.
Diana K., a 26-year-old Kyrgyz housewife, says she fell victim to sex traffickers.

OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- What Diana K. thought was a good job offer in Turkey turned out to be a big lie to lure the 26-year-old housewife from southern Kyrgyzstan into sexual slavery.

Diana, who didn’t want to disclose her family name, accuses three women from Kyrgyzstan of targeting her for trafficking, a claim she tried to prove to police.

Diana says she was first approached by an acquaintance, Shahzada, who convinced the mother of two she should go to work to improve her tight financial situation.

“She asked me, ‘Why do you stay at home without a job? Let’s go abroad where you can make money to buy a home,’” Diana told Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. “Then she gave me the phone number of her friend, Mavluda, who [subsequently] contacted me and told me to come to Istanbul, promising me a well-paid job there.”

Diana, who lives in the city of Osh, says she completed secondary school but has not had “a proper job.” The family depended on the income of her husband, a migrant worker in Moscow.

She decided to accept Mavluda’s offer to work as a caregiver for an elderly Turkish woman for about $300 a month.

Many Kyrgyz women migrants in Turkey work as caregivers for elderly people. (file photo)
Many Kyrgyz women migrants in Turkey work as caregivers for elderly people. (file photo)

The offer didn’t seem suspicious. Turkey is a popular destination for female Kyrgyz migrants, most of whom are employed as caregivers, babysitters, and domestic workers for Turkish families.

Diana says that only after arriving in Istanbul in February did she realize she had fallen victim to sex traffickers. At the Istanbul airport, she was greeted by a third woman, Umida, who took Diana to a house in the city’s Kumkapi neighorhood.

“When I woke up in the morning, I saw that my passport was missing from my bag,” she said. “Umida said that she had taken my documents. She added that she had ‘bought me’ from Mavluda for big money and that I need to pay that off…. Then two young men entered the room and started to strangle me. They threatened to kill me if I didn’t work to pay off the money. They said nobody would ever find my body.”

Diana said she was shocked and frightened. She had no documents and didn’t know anyone in Turkey.

A week later, she managed to escape her traffickers with the “help of a stranger” and contacted police. She didn’t give many details of her escape, only saying that the Kyrgyz Consulate in Istanbul helped her to return to Kyrgyzstan.

Diana is now back in her home city of Osh, but she says can’t get her old life back.

Her husband has filed for divorce and is not responding to her phone calls. He is also seeking sole custody of their children.

Diana now lives with her parents. Her sister Alina says the shocking experience “has completely changed and ruined” her younger sibling.

“I have never seen her in such a state,” Alina said.

Insufficient Evidence

Seeking to bring her traffickers to justice, Diana filed a complaint with the Osh police. But after an initial probe, the Osh Provincial Police Department decided not to take any action due to a lack of evidence.

“The claimant flew from the Osh airport to Turkey for work on February 20. Then she was deported to Kyrgyzstan,” police spokeswoman Nurperi Abdullaeva said. “She claimed that Kyrgyz citizen M. sold her into sexual slavery. During a preliminary probe, no evidence was found to indicate any of the alleged unlawful acts were committed on behalf of that citizen.”

Osh police spokeswoman Nurperi Abdullaeva: "No evidence was found."
Osh police spokeswoman Nurperi Abdullaeva: "No evidence was found."

Diana said she blames herself for the mistake that cost the young woman her marriage and previous life.

“I am ashamed of myself. I won’t be able to look into my husband’s eyes. I can’t look into my children’s eyes,” Diana said. “I am ashamed that it happened to me and that I couldn’t fight for myself.”

Women going to foreign countries for work has been a hot topic in Kyrgyzstan in the last decade as the number of migrant women has steadily risen.

Last month, two conservative Kyrgyz lawmakers suggested that the government should restrict unmarried women under the age of 23 from traveling abroad alone for work.

Kyrgyz lawmaker Shailoobek Atazov
Kyrgyz lawmaker Shailoobek Atazov

The politicians, Nadira Narmatova and Shailoobek Atazov, argue that young women often face exploitation as migrant workers. The Foreign Ministry responded that imposing such travel restrictions would breach the constitution and violate women’s rights.

Similar calls by lawmakers in the past were met by condemnation and protests by women’s rights activists.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Central Asian Migrants’ Unit and Current Time.

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