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Iraq is both a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. Iraqi women and girls, some as young as 11 years old, are subjected to conditions of human trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, and possibly Yemen for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households.

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  • Iraq is both a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. Iraqi women and girls, some as young as 11 years old, are subjected to conditions of human trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, and possibly Yemen for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households. In some cases, women are lured into forced sexual exploitation through false promises of work. The more prevalent means of human trafficking is through sale or forced marriage. Family members have coerced girls and women into prostitution to escape desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or to resolve disputes between families. Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the traditional institution of temporary marriages (muta’a). Under this arrangement, the family receives a dowry from the husband and the marriage is terminated after a specified period. Iraqi males have also taken advantage of muta’a to traffic multiple women into other Iraqi provinces or neighboring countries, especially Syria, for the purposes of forced prostitution. Anecdotal reports tell of desperate Iraqi families abandoning their children at the Syrian border with the expectation that traffickers on the Syrian side will pick them up and arrange forged documents so the young women and girls can stay in Syria in exchange for working in a nightclub or brothel. The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being trafficked. Iraq is a destination country for men and women who migrate from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Georgia, Jordan, and Uganda and are subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor as construction workers, security guards, cleaners, handymen, and domestic workers. Such men and women often reported their employers seized workers’ passports and official documents, refused to honor employment contracts, and made threats of deportation as a means to keep them in a situation of forced labor. Some governments ban their nationals from working in Iraq. These bans are not effective, however, as many migrating laborers and labor brokers circumvent the law. Some of these foreign migrants were recruited for work in other countries such as Jordan or the Arab states of the Persian Gulf but were forced or coerced to travel to Iraq, where their passports were confiscated and their wages withheld, ostensibly to repay labor brokers for the costs of recruitment, transport, and food and lodging. Other foreign migrants were aware they were destined for Iraq but once in-country, found the terms of employment were not what they expected or the jobs they were promised did not exist, and they faced coercion and serious harm, financial or otherwise, if they attempted to leave. In one case that came to light last year, 14 Ugandan women were subjected to forced labor in Iraq. These women were told they would work on U.S. military bases as domestic workers, although no U.S. contractors or subcontractors were involved in bringing them to Iraq. Upon arrival, the women were sent to work as domestic workers for private Iraqi families and received significantly lower wages. Some of the women were locked in rooms, had their passports stolen, and were physically or sexually abused by either the recruitment agent or the employer, practices potentially used to keep them in compelled service. Some Iraqi boys from poor families are subjected to forced street begging and other nonconsensual labor exploitation and forced commercial sexual exploitation. Some women from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines who migrated to the area under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) experienced conditions of involuntary domestic servitude after being recruited with offers of different jobs. An Iraqi official revealed networks of women have been involved in the trafficking and sale of male and female children for the purposes of forced prostitution. There were reports some Iraqi boys were trafficked internally for the purpose of organ donation; Baghdad hospitals did not question the “voluntary” donation because often the father of the boy was present. There have been isolated cases of Iraqi border forces intercepting older men and young girls attempting to travel together out of Iraq using fake documents; NGOs contend these are cases of trafficking. Anecdotal evidence and media reports suggested some trafficking victims were taken from orphanages and other charitable institutions by employees of these organizations. The Government of Iraq does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so in spite of resource and capability constraints. The Iraqi government continued to move its draft anti-trafficking bill through its legislative structures. Because the determination that Iraq is making significant efforts is based on indications of a commitment to take additional future steps over the next year, particularly the passage of the anti-trafficking law. U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed the country in "Tier 2 Watchlist" in 2017. (en)
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  • Iraq is both a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. Iraqi women and girls, some as young as 11 years old, are subjected to conditions of human trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, and possibly Yemen for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households. (en)
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  • Human trafficking in Iraq (en)
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