The UN estimates that 1.2 million Iraqi refugees have entered Syria since the beginning of the Iraq war. However, the Syrian government’s numbers put the number of refugees to be higher. As violence increased in Iraq in the recent months, there has also been an increase in unaccompanied women refugees and women-headed households entering Syria. These women, many supporting families, are living in a country where the cost of living and unemployment rates are both increasing. Many of these women find that their only marketable asset is their bodies. They face a difficult choice – engage in prostitution or be forced to return to Iraq.
Prostitution is a forbidden topic by the Syrian government. However, in recent months the government has been acknowledging this growing problem. The Syrian government is sympathetic to these women and is careful not to deport them. However, little else is being done to help these women or to offer alternatives to prostitution.
For more information please see:
NY Times: “Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria” 29 May 2007.