and Help" NGO works with prostitutes
as a risk group for human trafficking.
For several years Armenian newspapers have carried
advertisements calling for "young and pretty
girls for well paid jobs abroad"; or "will
meet a woman for a marriage, 28-35 year olds,
pretty and joyful for life abroad."
Some might see the ads as an opportunity, but
human rights activists in Armenia see them as
a trap. It is a means by which vulnerable young
women fall victim to the global problem of human
While local human rights defenders and their
organizations tried to qualify the new phenomena
and find its origin, Armenia was ranked last year
by the U.S Government as a country which put no
efforts into fighting the phenomena and risked
sanctions if the situation does not change.
Of approximately 1 million who have immigrated
from Armenia in recent years, it is believed that
at least 500 have become victims of the "sex
Experts estimate that international criminal
coalitions reap some $7 billion a year in the
business of kidnapping girls and turning them
into unwilling prostitutes. The situation is severe
in Eastern European and Baltic countries, and
could pose a danger for Armenia as well. Some
say that Armenia's relatively unregulated tourism
sector makes it easy to falsify documents and
move people across borders.
According to research of the phenomena, girls
from Armenia usually end up in the United Arab
Emirates and Turkey.
Though the problem has become the focus of international
debate - especially in Poland, Romania and the
Ukraine - many in Armenia are naive to the subtext
of solicitations for women looking for employment
or travel abroad.
says that it is still hard to get the number
of people who suffered trafficking.
A recent Internews television program featured
a young Armenian woman who said she had been taken
to the United Arab Emirates to work as a waitress.
"When I arrived to the airport my passport
was taken by a man who I believed was an employer.
He took me to the hotel. The next day I became
She and several other girls managed to escape
and to return to Armenia after working in U.A.E
for several months. Yerevan resident Marietta
Muradyan was found to have organized the girls'
setup. She was sentenced to one year in prison.
According to court records She earned $47,000
for selling her compatriots abroad.
Last year non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
in Armenia pledged to fight trafficking.
The result is that the latest US report (which
employs a three-tier evaluation system) moves
Armenia from the third category of "no efforts
to comply" up a tier to "incomplete
"It is not the best achievement but at least
there is an obvious change toward trafficking
issues among mass media and non governmental organizations,"
says Ovsanna Babayan, the national program officer
of the International Organization for Migration
office in Yerevan. (IOM)
The IOM managed to interview sixty returnees
(returning migrants) from Yerevan, Vanadzor and
Gyumri and 43 of which were victims of trafficking.
Twenty eight of them were subjected to sex work.
"It is still hard to get the number of people
who suffered trafficking because they first of
all are afraid of police and especially they do
not want the publicity," Babayan says. She
adds that because of limited knowledge of the
subject, victims don't know where to turn.
The IOM office hopes that with the help of NGOs
they will manage to have better results next year.
The office has received a $170,000 grant from
the US Government to develop programs aimed at
is for several years that Armenian women joined
the list of victims of trafficking.
The IOM will organize seminars for the officials
of Armenian diplomatic missions abroad to teach
them how to deal with people who illegally entered
the country and to recognize the potential trafficking
The NGO Hope and Help will receive $65,000 to
implement several programs.
Hope and Help organization actively works to
help prostitutes who face problems with police
and works with more than 300 prostitutes, ranging
in age from 13 to 55. (According to the police
there are 1,500 prostitutes registered in Yerevan)
"We will provide shelter for returnees
- those prostitutes who experienced trafficking
abroad. All victims of the trafficking need first
of all psychological help and support. Even though
they go abroad intentionally for the sex work
they face exploitative conditions - are being
beaten, given little food and no money,"
says Nora Mnatsakanyan, the program coordinator.
The organization will provide doctors and psychologists
who will work with prostitutes. Also, they try
to find other jobs or provide training for professional
Mnatsakanyan says they will try to give the women
a chance to start another life. She hopes that
the training and individual meetings with the
prostitutes will prevent most of them from ruining
their lives and adding their names to the long
list of trafficking victims.