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and Investigative Research - 8 July 2006; edited for clarity 2018-05-04
assistance: Peter Robert North]
Table of Contents
█ Why the NATO bombing of Serbia?
█ The Kosovo trade in female slaves
█ Sebastian Junger
█ Law and order in Kosovo today, according to
█ APPENDIX: Sebastian Junger's Slaves of the
Do you remember Kosovo? It’s the place we had to go save because the Serbs, NATO officials told us, were committing genocide against the Kosovo Albanians, and so what NATO needed to do, according to NATO officials, was help the ethnic Albanian KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) defeat the Serbs. So NATO bombed Serbia in 1999.
According to Sebastian Junger’s piece Slaves of the Brothel (Vanity Fair, July 2002), since the NATO bombing Kosovo has become a gangster state, where a criminal organization that is a cross between an ordinary mafia and a full-fledged terrorist army represses everybody, directs the lion’s share of the European heroin trade, and also much of the traffic in European female slaves.
Did NATO intervene in Kosovo on behalf of the ethnic Albanians? This is easily answered:
1) NATO has failed to produce a single body from the genocide it supposedly went to stop;
2) NATO installed the current Kosovo gangsters in power; and
3) we are no longer being exhorted by NATO officials to feel compassion for Kosovo Albanians.
In the Middle East as in Kosovo, there are terrorists who wish to exterminate their neighbors and who daily oppress their own people with physical violence for dissenters, and with hate indoctrination for the rest.
In the Middle East as in Kosovo, the enemies of such terrorists are falsely demonized as oppressors in the Western media.
In the Middle East as in Kosovo, the United States and the European powers are all supporting the idea of a pseudo-state carved out of another state, and run by such terrorists.
And in the Middle East as in Kosovo, the NATO powers claim that they do this out of concern for an oppressed Muslim people.
Kosovo has become a gangster state where ordinary Albanians suffer extreme and widespread oppression; Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs have been murdered or thrown out in a campaign of extermination. Substitute ‘Arabs’ for ‘Albanians’ and ‘Jews’ for ‘Serbs’ and you’ve predicted the future of the Middle East.
Those who would defend Israel must understand Kosovo.
In the late 1990s, NATO governments threw their support behind an ethnic Albanian terrorist movement calling itself the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) that, among other things, was seeking to separate the province of Kosovo from Serbia.
NATO citizens were told that the KLA was fighting to liberate ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from what NATO officials insisted was Serbian right-wing repression. When NATO began dropping bombs on Serbia, NATO officials forcefully and repeatedly explained, this was to stop a genocide against the ethnic Albanians. Turning a phrase that Orwell himself might have coined, NATO officials called this “humanitarian bombing.”
NATO’s humanitarian bombs killed quite a few civilians, but that was necessary to stop an anti-Albanian genocide from getting worse, NATO officials insisted.
Two problems with that.
First, these humanitarian, pro-Albanian bombs were killing so many Albanian civilians that the same NATO officials were forced to make a public apology. Oops.
And second, as HIR has demonstrated, there was no genocide by Serbs against Albanian civilians. Even with total NATO/KLA military control over post-bombing Kosovo, NATO’s own forensics were unable to produce even one body of an Albanian civilian murdered by the Serbs.
It is obvious, therefore, that the US power elite did not intervene in Kosovo to make Albanian civilians better off. On the contrary. Albanians were doing well before the NATO bombing, as shown by a US military study from the 1980s (the decade right before the US destroyed Yugoslavia). According to this US military study, Albanians in the Kosovo province of Serbia were the most carefully protected, economically subsidized, and politically enfranchised national minority anywhere in the world.
Since then, as this piece will show, the Kosovo Albanians are now—thanks, precisely, to the NATO bombing—some of the most brutally oppressed people in the world.
Vanity Fair’s July 2002 piece by Sebastian Junger begins by explaining what the topic is:
“A virulent Mafia business is thriving in postwar Kosovo: the $7 to $12 billion traffic in Eastern European women lured by promises of work, then forced into prostitution. Despite international efforts, sex slave traders have been nearly impossible to prosecute, thanks to corruption, local laws, and the victims’ fear of testifying.
…By the time they realize what is going on, it is too late. Deprived of their passports, gang-raped, often forced to take drugs, and disoriented by lack of food and sleep, these women find themselves virtual prisoners of whatever brothel they wind up in.
...the women know that -- since they were recruited back home -- the Mafia network extends into the smallest villages of their home country. When a pimp promises to harm a prostitute or her family, it is not an idle threat.”
Junger’s desire to report on the mushrooming, multi-billion-dollar traffic in European female slaves brought him to Kosovo because this is now the epicenter of a business that grinds young women and destroys them. Writes Junger:
“The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.) -- part of the temporary governing body in Kosovo -- estimates that around 200,000 women each year are trafficked from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, most of them as prostitutes. The value of their services has been estimated at between $7 and $12 billion. ...There are now as many as 100 brothels in Kosovo, each employing up to 20 women. Thousands more women are trafficked through Kosovo and on into Western Europe.”
How much “temporary governing” can the OSCE be doing if Kosovo has become the capital of the modern trade in European female slaves? Is this the meaning of “Security and Cooperation in Europe”? Who is cooperating with whom?
I’ll give you two clues. According to Junger:
<![if !supportLists]>1) <![endif]>“prostitution became a mainstay of the criminal economy within months of the NATO intervention in Kosovo”;
<![if !supportLists]>2) <![endif]> “U.N. police officers are training local Albanians—many of them taken from the ranks of the disarmed Kosovo Liberation Army— …in basic police procedure.”
So the KLA terrorist thugs are being turned by the UN into the official—UN sanctioned—monopoly of power, which is convenient for the many UN personnel whom Junger says regularly patronize the KLA’s Kosovo brothels!
These “Kosovo Police Service…officers, who are paid only $230 a month, are also highly vulnerable to corruption, making security breaches almost unavoidable.” I wonder why? Could it be because the supposedly “disarmed Kosovo Liberation Army” has become the armed “Kosovo Police Service”? Aren’t criminals and terrorists especially “vulnerable to corruption”? I’m only speculating.
By the way, the Kosovo Police Service took only a few KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) stalwarts. That ‘army’ continues: it was never disarmed. What does this mean? That, in Kosovo, the slave-trafficking KLA/Albanian Mafia is everywhere in power.
That includes a KLA-friendly court system, because, as Junger explains,
“Major criminal trials in Kosovo have two international judges sit on a panel with three local, or ‘lay,’ judges. This panel hears all evidence and then comes to a verdict. The lay judges, however, occasionally display the prejudices of the highly patriarchal [Albanian Muslim] culture. They tend to blame the woman for her troubles, in other words. ‘The majority of rape cases are fabricated by the alleged victims, seeking revenge, or trying to pressure the defendant to force a marriage proposal,’ one judge, according to an O.S.C.E. report, declared before a rape trial.”
Life for sex slaves, even when they are not being beaten or gang-raped, is unbelievably tough. According to a former sex slave whom Junger interviewed,
“[In the brothels,] the schedule was brutal. They had to stripdance from eight P.M. until six A.M., taking time to go in back with clients if called upon, and they had to be up at eight A.M. in case there were clients during the day. ...The prostitutes made around $30 per client and $1 for each drink the client bought, which was all put toward their debt. Natalia owed $1,500, but the owner deducted for food, lodging, clothes, and, of course, drugs, particularly cocaine, which the girls freebased in back. The new girls lived at the bar, and the ones who had repaid more than half their debt lived in an apartment, because the owner didn’t want the experienced ones warning the new ones about what was going to happen to them. If a particular girl got close to repaying her debt, the owner sold her off to someone else, and she had to start all over again.”
Junger says that he interviewed one “Lilia Gorceag, an American trained psychologist who treats women at the I.O.M. safe house in Chisinau.” Chisinau is the capital of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, where slave traffickers find much with which to commerce (because Moldova is desperately poor and its women beautiful); the I.O.M. is the International Organization for Migration, which shelters ‘migrants’ and helps them return home. Writes Junger:
“Gorceag says that women who are trafficked to Turkey, Greece, and Italy generally survive their experiences psychologically intact, but the ones who wind up in the Balkans [meaning, in Kosovo] are utterly destroyed as people. They exhibit classic symptoms of severe post-traumatic stress disorder: they can’t focus; they can’t follow schedules; they’re apathetic to the point of appearing somnambulistic; they fly into violent rages or plunge into hopeless depression; some even live in terror that someone will come and take them away. Their condition keeps them from functioning normally in a family or a job, and that puts them at even greater risk of being trafficked again. “One of my patients ate napkins,” says Gorceag. “When I took away the napkins, she started eating newspaper. She wasn’t even aware of what she was doing. There is another patient who counts. She counts everything. When she can’t find anything to count, she turns her sleeve and counts the stitching. These are people with completely destroyed psyches. It’s a form of genocide. I know that’s a very strong word, but I live with 22 of these women, and I see their suffering every day.”
The extreme psychological breakdown that Gorceag reports for slaves trafficked to Kosovo may have something to do with the special ferocity and regularity of the violence there.
Now, given post-NATO Kosovo’s centrality to the modern reappearance of a Muslim traffic in European slaves, Junger is naturally forced to tell us—beyond reporting on the slave trade itself—something about what law and order have become in Kosovo since the NATO bombing. This focus is what makes Junger’s portrait of Kosovo so valuable to us.
When interpreting a portrait, however, it is good to have a sense for the painter’s biases. Allow me, therefore, a few words about this Sebastian Junger, because he has been to Yugoslavia before. He’s been to Kosovo before, in fact.
Sebastian Junger’s earlier articles on Yugoslavia, when NATO was justifying its intervention there against the supposedly genocidal Serbs, generally agreed with NATO, as if Junger had been, not an independent journalist, but a government spokesperson.
What about Kosovo? NATO officials also accused the Serbs of carrying out a campaign of genocide in Kosovo—this time against the Kosovo Albanians. Once again, Sebastian Junger agreed with NATO/ In 1998, he went to Kosovo itself and wrote ‘Kosovo’s Valley of Death’ for Vanity Fair’s July issue. In the table of contents, Junger’s piece is announced as follows:
“In the smoldering province of Kosovo, perched on the former Republic of Yugoslavia’s border with Albania, the Serb army is waging a campaign of terror -- and sowing the seeds of another European war. Under the AK-47s of Belgrade’s troops and their guerilla foes, Sebastian Junger explores the heartbreaking terrain of two savage massacres.”
The slant is unambiguous. Vanity Fair does not even call the Yugoslav army “the Serbian army” but “the Serb army” to make it sound more like an irregular ethnic militia “waging a campaign of terror.” By contrast, overlooking that a top US diplomat had just let it slip that the Albanian KLA was “without any questions, a terrorist group,” Vanity Fair calls the KLA “guerilla foes,” which the reader interprets as an army of ‘resistance’ or ‘liberation.’
It is obvious who Vanity Fair is saying perpetrated “two savage massacres,” but one cannot deliver the message too many times, so Sebastian Junger’s article begins with this sentence: “Once again, the Serb army is bombarding villages and massacring entire families...” He goes on to tell a tale of relentless, Tolkien-like Serbian savagery against innocent Albanians. To really compare this to anything, Junger editorializes, “you’d have to go back to the Nazis.”
And yet, as mentioned, NATO’s own forensics—despite total NATO/KLA control of Kosovo after the bombing—could not produce evidence of even one Albanian civilian murdered by Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic’s forces. What happened to all that ‘Nazi’ work? Where did it go? It never happened: Sebastian Junger’s stories about slaughter upon slaughter of Albanian civilians by bloodthirsty Serbs are not true.
Junger certainly never claims to have witnessed violence by Serbian authorities against innocent Albanians himself; he got his stories from what he calls Albanian “witnesses.” So it is relevant that the Albanian KLA terrorists, as has been well established, were in charge of producing for Western journalists precisely such fraudulent ‘testimony’ about supposed monstrous Serbian crimes.
And yet Junger tells vivid and memorable stories of Serbian atrocities in his 1998 Vanity Fair piece—so vivid that you can almost swear Junger was in fact there, dodging the bullets. There is a good reason for that. Though he is a poor investigator, Sebastian Junger can write fiction: he is the bestselling author of The Perfect Storm. Whatever it is that the Albanian “witnesses” told him, Sebastian Junger can spin it into a good yarn.
Junger is what you call a ‘hack.’
In the same 1998 piece on Kosovo, Junger wrote that,
“[In 1989,] nearly 600 years after the battle [of Kosovo, where the medieval Serbs fought the Turks to a draw], Slobodan Milosevic -- the man responsible for igniting the entire Balkan conflict -- would stand on the ancient battlefield and whip a crowd of angry Serbs into a nationalist frenzy. 'Yugoslavia does not exist without Kosovo!' he yelled, instantly catapulting himself to the top of the political heap. 'Yugoslavia would disintegrate without Kosovo!'”
This is the mainstream NATO and media representation of the Yugoslav civil wars: Slobodan Milosevic gave a speech in Kosovo in 1989 and “whip[ped] a crowd of angry Serbs into a nationalist frenzy,” making the Serbs eager to go exterminate everybody who was not Serbian and thus “igniting the entire Balkan conflict.”
But this is false.
Slobodan Milosevic talked about nothing but unity, harmony, and equality between the ethnic populations of Yugoslavia in his 1989 speech. He ignited nothing. The media lied. HIR’s investigation, which reproduces the full text of the speech (two independent translations) shows that sentences such as “Yugoslavia does not exist without Kosovo!” and “Yugoslavia would disintegrate without Kosovo!”—which Junger surrounded with quotation marks!—do not appear in the speech.
Junger also scares the reader with hearsay accounts of supposed violence by Serbian policemen against journalists such as himself. And yet, paradoxically, Junger didn’t witness any violence by Serbian policemen against journalists, and he himself had zero problems with the Serbian policemen, who waved him through every checkpoint (including the checkpoint right before what Junger claims was the scene of a Serbian war crime against Albanian civilians!).
In a brave attempt to solve this particular contradiction, Junger relays how a Serbian policeman screamed at him that “You journalists are all spies! You always make the Serbs look bad,” telling him to print the truth or else; Junger implies that he considers this ‘violent’ and undeserved.
But though he never had trouble with the Serbs, KLA snipers did shoot at Sebastian Junger and his companion when passing through a police checkpoint. In details such as these, one begins to glimpse, through the fog of propaganda that addles poor Junger’s mind, the real story of Yugoslavia’s civil wars.
At the very end of his 1998 Vanity Fair piece, Junger gives us another peek:
“On April 29th, after a series of [KLA] attacks on police bunkers, a statement attributed to the KLA was issued, threatening death to anyone who negotiates with the Serbs for anything less than full independence for Kosovo.”
So Junger lets it slip that the KLA was conducting a campaign of terror against Albanian civilians who disagreed with the KLA. The KLA kept its promise, making an example of any Albanian who went out of his way to show loyalty to Yugoslavia, and then the KLA proudly took credit for the murders in public.
Sebastian Junger’s 1998 piece in Vanity Fair fits the pattern of the great majority of articles in the mainstream Western media about Yugoslavia during the 1990s, The reporter:
<![if !supportLists]>1) <![endif]>witnesses no Serbian violence against Albanians and is not mistreated by the Serbian authorities;
<![if !supportLists]>2) <![endif]>downplays KLA violence against Albanians, and KLA serbophobic racist violence, which he does witness; and
<![if !supportLists]>3) <![endif]>reports a tale of supposed Serbian savagery based entirely on Albanian ‘testimony’ that is presented as confirmed, scientific fact.
Now, in his more recent 2002 Vanity Fair piece about the Kosovo trade in sex slaves, Junger summarizes the Kosovo conflict by way of historical aside, and once again represents the Serbs as the ‘bad guys’ in order to apologize, once more, for the NATO bombing:
“In February and March 1998, Serb military and paramilitary forces carried out a series of massacres in the Drenica region of central Kosovo that quickly grew into a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing. By the time NATO intervened a year later, as many as 10,000 ethnic Albanians had been killed and an estimated 800,000 driven across the country’s borders.”
Junger is repeating NATO lies (again…).
The Hague Tribunal reported the final body count for Kosovo—after the forensics had packed their bags and left because there was nothing further to be found—in August 2000 (Junger writes the above in 2002). The total, final body count reported in August 2000 was this: 2788 bodies. Not, mind you, 2788 bodies of Albanian civilians massacred by Milosevic’s forces. Just bodies. So this grand total includes dead Serbian soldiers, dead Serbian civilians, and dead KLA terrorists. It includes everybody who was killed by NATO’s bombs. Yes, it includes some dead Albanian civilians, but these latter are just a fraction of 2788, and NATO cannot show that the Serbs killed any of them.
It is quite impossible that 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians were killed by the Serbs, as Junger asserts. 10,000 is just the magical number that the KLA and the media chose to keep repeating, in their pro-NATO sing-along, when it became obvious that nobody would buy the earlier magical and beautifully round number: 100,000. (500,000, another round, psychological landmark, was also trotted out, briefly).
The supposed “massacres in the Drenica region of central Kosovo” that Junger mentions never happened. The most famous accusation is that Milosevic’s forces supposedly massacred around 40 Albanian civilians in the Kosovo town of Racak. NATO used this accusation as an excuse to begin the NATO bombing of the Serbs, but no massacre took place: it was a CIA/KLA hoax, and some information about this had surfaced already in 2000 and then again in 2001, which is to say long before Junger wrote his piece. In 2001, the study done by NATO’s own Finish forensic team, which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was no Racak massacre, was published. But Sebastian Junger, writing in 2002, does not care: he is still pushing pro-NATO propaganda that has already been refuted by NATO’s own scientists.
Sebastian Junger’s career is perfectly consistent with a strong reluctance to say anything bad about the KLA, which in turn is consistent with Junger’s pro-NATO orientation, because saying bad things about the KLA, for which NATO became the air force, embarrasses NATO’s position. And as we see above, in Junger’s 2002 article on Kosovo, he is still working hard to apologize for NATO. This is worth keeping in mind.
It is also worth keeping in mind that Junger’s two traveling companions and translators for his 2002 foray into Kosovo, and who translated everything (whether from Albanian or Serbian), were both of them Albanian. And they were clearly not too afraid to escort the foreigner journalist into the heart of Mordor. Ergo, they couldn’t be too unfriendly with the KLA.
But Junger does have eyes. And he saw certain things in Kosovo. Thus, despite the heavy indoctrination and management he works under—which has made him repeat so many NATO official lies without bothering to verify—his new piece radically contradicts, no matter his framing, the NATO narrative.
And yet, given the biases of the author, and of his data collection instruments, we can make the following educated guess: though Junger paints a picture of NATO-installed KLA rule in Kosovo that is one of umitigated horror, Kosovo is probably even worse.
About Kosovo today, Junger explains in his recent 2002 Vanity Fair piece:
“Most of the prostitutes in Kosovo have been trafficked illegally from the poorest parts of the ruined Soviet state. They are lured by the promise of a good job, usually in Italy or Germany, their passports are confiscated, and they generally wind up sold to Albanian pimps, who force them to work in brothels to pay off their “debt,” i.e., what it cost the pimp to buy them. Not surprisingly, the system is set up so that that is virtually impossible, and the women essentially become trapped in the dark, violent world of the Albanian Mafia.
…There are very good reasons why something amounting to slavery has been allowed to thrive in the middle of Europe. Not only is the Albanian Mafia notoriously violent -- Kosovo has one of the highest murder rates in Europe -- but it has attempted to infiltrate and buy off both the local police force and the government. “Those who have money here have power,” as one United Nations police officer says. “And the Mafia has money.” Undercover work in the brothels is dangerous, and attempting a police action that the Mafia doesn’t get tipped off to is extremely difficult. Furthermore, the Mafia is deeply intertwined with the Kosovo Liberation Army (K.L.A.), which fought the [Yugoslav] Army and then started an insurrection in Macedonia, and it has access to plenty of weapons.”
Sebastian Junger says above that “there are very good reasons why something amounting to slavery has been allowed to thrive in the middle of Europe,” but in fact he does not state the principal reason: NATO bombed the compassionate and tolerant Serbs and empowered the racist and terrorist KLA.
Junger’s way of mangling the point that the “Albanian Mafia” and the KLA are one and the same thing goes like this: “the Mafia is deeply intertwined with the Kosovo Liberation Army (K.L.A.).” The KLA/Mafia, as Junger explains, has its fingers in “the local police force and the government,” which, given that the KLA/Mafia are “notoriously violent,” has for consequence that “Kosovo has one of the highest murder rates in Europe.”
So, thanks to NATO, Kosovo today is the most nightmarish gangster state, swarming with slaves.
Elsewhere in his article Sebastian Junger says that, immediately after the NATO bombing,
“Groups of young Albanian toughs were already patrolling the streets of Pristina [Kosovo’s capital] and other large towns... Already in a position of power because they had helped fund and arm the K.L.A., the Mafia bought off local officials, infiltrated the police force, and killed anyone they couldn’t intimidate.”
Junger says lots of things, and it can be distracting, but there are rewards to paying attention. What he says above gives away the store: NATO knowingly backed a criminal/terrorist enterprise in Kosovo. The identity of the terrorist KLA as the armed wing of the Albanian Mafia was in place long before NATO decided to become the KLA’s air force. But Junger didn’t make any of this clear when he was cheering for NATO to intervene, supposedly on behalf of the ethnic Albanians.
Notice what he now writes:
“Worldwide, the effect [of the Albanian Mafia] has been disastrous. The Balkan drug trade, which moves more than 70 percent of the heroin destined for Europe, is valued at an estimated $400 billion a year. By early 2001 the Albanian Mafia had muscled its competition out of the way and all but taken over London’s crime-ridden red-light district, Soho. Albanian organized crime has established alliances with the Italian Mafia and with criminal gangs in Turkey. In February 2001 an Albanian insurrection started in Macedonia [which borders Kosovo], and the Mafia quickly moved in to help arm and pay for the guerrilla movement that went from several hundred to several thousand men in a matter of months. In some cases, Mafia bosses simply became local rebel commanders and funded their military operations through criminal enterprises that could operate much more effectively under the cover of war.”
The terrorist KLA has now been replicated by the Albanian Mafia in Macedonia. As I was saying, the KLA is simply the armed wing of the Albanian Mafia. And this Mafia is replicating other things: according to Junger, “the highway south of the Macedonian town of Tetovo -- long a hotbed of Albanian nationalism and organized crime -- is lined with brothels as well.”
Obviously, NATO made ordinary ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and elsewhere worse off.
How curious, isn’t it, that NATO officials aren’t this very minute mobilizing the NATO citizenries to help the desperate Kosovo Albanians who are being oppressed by the KLA/Albanian Mafia. NATO officials certainly appeared very concerned about these Albanians when they were telling us how important and urgent it was that we bomb the Serbs. Can it be that NATO officials don’t know what has been happening in Kosovo since they bombed Serbia? No, they do know. Here below is Sebastian Junger narrating his trip from Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, to the Macedonian border, where there is an especially high concentration of female slaves. It is interesting to note why.
“The highway was two narrow lanes of ruined pavement. Convoys of trucks blasted past us in the oncoming lane, and U.N. tanks and armored trucks slowed traffic heading south, toward Macedonia, to a crawl. Albanian rebels had seized a large part of the mountainous border between the two countries, and the U.N. peacekeepers were building up their presence in case they had to intervene on short notice. Off in the distance we could see the diffuse yellow glow of Camp Bondsteel reflecting off the cloud cover. Bondsteel is an enormous American base built close to a nasty little industrial town called Ferizaj. As a result, Ferizaj has an inordinate number of brothels, and at a gas station outside of town, with the rain drumming down and the trucks roaring past, the pump attendant advised us to check out one called the Apaci [pronounced Apachee]. It had the best girls in town, he said, so that was where all the American officers went. We thanked him and drove around the ghastly apartment blocks and ruined factories of Ferizaj until we found a low concrete building covered in camouflage netting. It had a photograph of an Apache attack helicopter on the door. We parked by some railroad tracks and walked in.”
Obviously, NATO officials are informed of what is going on in Kosovo: their own soldiers furnish much of the demand for Kosovo’s sex slaves. If NATO officials are not now exhorting us to defend these women, and the Albanian civilians, who are much worse off now than they were before NATO dropped its bombs, it must be because they really don’t care about them. Protecting civilians was never the point of anything for NATO officials. That’s just what they told us so that we would agree to the NATO bombing (because we care about our fellow humans).
So, in Kosovo, NATO backed a criminal/terrorist enterprise that has turned Kosovo into an apocalyptic nightmare for ordinary Albanians after the KLA/Mafia slaughtered and drove out the local Serbs with NATO’s help. The same NATO governments are following an identical policy in the Middle East, where they are supporting the claims of a criminal/terrorist enterprise that says out loud it wishes to exterminate the Jews and which daily oppresses the West Bank and Gaza Arabs.
What do you think the future holds for Israel? Look to Kosovo.
and Further Reading
 “THE FREEZER TRUCK HOAX: How NATO framed the Serbs”;
Historical and Investigative Research; 2 December 2005; by Francisco
 “What can be said with some certainty is that NATO and the U.S. - foreigners and outsiders - have made a tenuous situation in Kosovo worse. Politicians often start wars but rarely fight them. Clinton, Tony Blair, Jean Chretien and their echoes in defence portfolios spout the same rhetoric like a chorus. We get Orwellian phrases like "humanitarian bombing.
Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who prior to U.S./NATO interference were terrorists, are now freedom fighters.”
SOURCE: CLINTON'S FOLLY: A WAR THE WEST CAN'T WIN, The Toronto Sun, April 4, 1999, Sunday,, Final EDITION, COMMENT,, Pg. C7, 844 words, PETER WORTHINGTON, TORONTO SUN
 The following piece documents how NATO had to apologize after bombing long columns of open tractors full of Albanian refugees:
 “THE FREEZER TRUCK HOAX: How NATO framed the Serbs”;
Historical and Investigative Research; 2 December 2005; by Francisco
 “The Serbs Were Not Oppressing the Kosovo Albanians...
Quite the opposite”; Historical and Investigative Research; 14 March 2006; by
 “Slaves of The Brothel”; Vanity Fair; July 2002; by
 “STRANGER THAN FICTION: NATO and the US Sponsor Terror
in Kosovo and Macedonia”; Emperor’s Clothes; 17 January 2002; by Jared
 I found a 1993 article that Junger wrote for the Christian Science Monitor. That article adhered closely to the Monitor’s editorial policy to damn the evidence and represent the Bosnian Serbs as genocidal murderers and the Bosnian Muslims as their innocent victims
Junger’s 1993 article is:
In this article, Junger portrays very sympathetically a number of people—all of them Bosnian Muslims—living in the city of Sarajevo, and finishes his piece by making it clear to the reader that the Serbs were supposedly targeting civilians such as these.
So Junger’s general orientation is pro-NATO, because NATO officials were representing the Bosnian conflict in precisely this way, and they backed the Bosnian Muslim faction of Alija Izetbegovic (which had control of Sarajevo).
NATO was representing the Bosnian Muslims as victims deserving of NATO help because this is what Western power elites need to do to get ordinary Westerners to support a foreign war: they have to scare them. The reason is that people in the West are mostly lovely people, with a good ideology, who wish to defend the downtrodden. Sebastian Junger represented the Bosnian Muslims as under siege from a genocidal enemy, making it easier for NATO to sell its intervention. But NATO’s and Junger’s representation of the Bosnian war is a fraud, as HIR has shown:
With NATO’s help, Izetbegovic carried out a campaign of genocide against the Bosnian Serbs; meanwhile, Westerners were told that they were stopping an even bigger genocide of Bosnian Muslims. None of it was true. A good many Bosnian Muslims were actually taking refuge with the Bosnian Serbs, running away from Alija Izetbegovic’s Islamist terrorists.
 “Kosovo’s Valley of Death”; Vanity Fair; July, 1998; by Sebastian Junger; starts p. 90.
 In February 1998, just a few months before Sebastian Junger’s article was published, US special envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard had recognized publicly that the KLA was a terrorist organization. (Agence France Presse abbreviates ‘Kosovo Liberation Army’ as UCK because these are its Albanian initials).
“[Gelbard] condemned the actions of an ethnic Albanian underground group Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Serb targets. ‘We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK is, without any questions, a terrorist group,’ Gelbard said.”
SOURCE: Agence France Presse, February 23, 1998 22:24 GMT, SECTION: International news, LENGTH: 631 words. HEADLINE: Washington ready to reward Belgrade for 'good will': envoy
 “THE FREEZER TRUCK HOAX: How NATO framed the Serbs”;
Historical and Investigative Research; 2 December 2005; by Francisco
 Conned in Kosovo: a CBC reporter's dilemma, Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), September 13, 1999, Monday, WORLD; Pg. 7, 649 words, Tom Regan, Special to The Christian Science Monitor, HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
“When Nancy Durham first discovered that she had been lied to, her reaction was ‘the most incredible sinking feeling.’
Ms. Durham, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television reporter, had returned to Kosovo in June of this year, to do a follow-up piece on an 18-year-old girl who had joined the Kosovo Liberation Army after her young sister had been killed by Serbs. The girl's story had been part of a larger piece that aired on the CBC in January, to much critical praise. Yet as Durham stood in the doorway of the family's home in Skenderaj, the sister who was supposed to have been killed was standing there, alive and well.
Rather than trying to excuse or brush off the lie, or have the CBC do a simple correction, Durham decided to do a full story - not only about the girl who told it, but what it said about how news is reported from a war zone.
The result is a 16-minute report: ‘The Truth About Rajmonda: A KLA Soldier Lies for the Cause.’ It's being hailed by many media observers in Canada as a breakthrough piece that should serve as a model for other news organizations.
Durham's involvement with Rajmonda Rreci began in September 1998 while she was filming a piece on an Albanian doctor. Rajmonda, a patient, told Durham on camera that she was joining the KLA to avenge the death of her six-year old sister. Durham (who works as a one-woman reporting ‘team’) returned in December 1998 and tracked down Ms. Rreci. During that interview, Rreci said that her sister was fortunate to die for Kosovo, and that she would do the same.
Then in June, almost as soon as NATO-led peacekeeping troops went into the region, Durham went back. It was during this trip she learned that Rreci had lied. When confronted, she told Durham that she had actually thought her sister was dead, but wasn't sure, and that doctors in the hospital had encouraged her to tell the story because other girls had lost sisters to the Serbs.
‘My first thoughts were 'This is a disaster,' ‘ says Durham. ‘I had this passion for the people in the story. I felt really depressed. If this happens to me, I thought, and I go back again, and again, and again, how many other journalists has this happened to?’
Durham returned to her home in Oxford, England, and thought about what she wanted to do. And although some media critics have said that the CBC pushed her to go back to do the report, Durham says this is untrue. She says she needed to go back, find Rajmonda Rreci again, and this time tell the true story.
It turned out that most of what the teenager had said wasn't true. She had actually been a member of the KLA before she went to the hospital and had known all along that her sister was alive. But Rreci continued to stress that other Kosovar girls had lost their sisters, and why shouldn't she do it for them? Ultimately, Rreci did admit that what she said was just KLA propaganda.
For Steve Kimber, director of the school of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, what Durham and the CBC did was critical. ‘It's very important to make journalism more transparent to the public. Particularly with a story that deals with 'heartstrings' like this one. And if it's not true, to give it just as much time as the story you had broadcast earlier.’
John Allemang, media critic for the Toronto Globe and Mail, says that while he feels the CBC has ‘overreacted,’ he's proud of the broadcaster for airing Durham's report. ‘But the question is, are they applying it across the board? There are lots of other situations where we're aware that we're not being told the complete truth. Is the CBC going to now start going back to check on other stories? The truth is, that it's hard for the media to check up on these things.’”
 “Kosovo’s Valley of Death”; Vanity Fair; July, 1998; by Sebastian Junger; starts p. 90.
 “How Politicians, the Media, and Scholars Lied about
Milosevic's 1989 Kosovo Speech: A review of the evidence”; Historical and
Investigative Research; 8 September 2005; by Francisco Gil-White
 Here is an example:
“The clandestine Albanian separatist movement Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has vowed 'multiple vengeance for the innocent deaths' in the Serbian region's central Drenica area, in a statement published Wednesday…The UCK, a group that wants the province to secede, has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks against Serbian civilians and Albanians loyal to the Belgrade regime.”
SOURCE: Agence France Presse, March 04, 1998, International news, 243 words, "Albanian separatists vow 'multiple vengeance'"
 “Slaves of The Brothel”; Vanity Fair; July 2002; by
 “THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL’S FINAL BODY COUNT IN KOSOVO WAS
EMBARRASSINGLY LOW: The Guardian covers up for NATO, and yet
revealingly neglects one argument”; Historical and Investigative Research; 4
December 2005; by Francisco Gil-White.
 The Guardian, August 18, 2000, 989 words, "Serb killings ‘exaggerated’ by west: Claims of up to 100,000 ethnic Albanians massacred in Kosovo revised to under 3,000 as exhumations near end," Jonathan Steele
 The Boston Globe, April 20, 1999, Tuesday, City Edition, NATIONAL/FOREIGN; Pg. A1, 974 words, Up to 500,000 unaccounted for in Kosovo; Missing men feared dead, US reports; CRISIS IN KOSOVO; Kornblut reported from Albania. Material from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in the preparation of this article., By Bob Hohler and Anne E. Kornblut, Globe Staff.
 “THE ROAD TO JENIN: THE RACAK “MASSACRE” HOAX, AND
THOSE WHOSE HONESTY IT PLACES IN DOUBT: Helena Ranta,
NATO, the UN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Associated
Press, and Human Rights Watch”; Historical and Investigative Research;
October 2005; by Francisco Gil-White
 “Slaves of The Brothel”; Vanity Fair; July 2002; by
Slaves of the Brothel
Vanity Fair, July 2002; by Sebastian Junger
postwar Kosovo, 200,000 eastern European women a year, lured by promises of
work, are forced into prostitution. Unfortunately, international efforts to
prosecute those responsible for this 7 to 12 billion dollars trafficking have
A virulent Mafia business is thriving in postwar Kosovo: the $7 to $12 billion traffic in Eastern European women lured by promises of work, then forced into prostitution. Despite international efforts, sex slave traders have been nearly impossible to prosecute, thanks to corruption, local laws, and the victims’ fear of testifying. Tracing the path of one young Moldovan woman, SEBASTIAN JUNGER conducts his own investigation of a vicious cycle that traps as many as 200,000 women a year.
The plan called for a “soft entry,” which meant that the police officers would ask to come in, rather than break down the door. It was 1:45 on the morning of July 6, 2001, and a convoy of white-painted U.N. police vehicles were gunning through Pristina’s deserted streets on their way to raid the infamous Miami Beach Club. The convoy passed a dead dog and a row of overflowing garbage bins and the destroyed post office and groups of tough-looking young men who turned to stare at the S.U.V.’s as they went by. The owner of the Miami Beach, Milam Maraj, was suspected of trafficking in women and forcing them into prostitution. What to all outward appearances was a regular strip club was, in fact, a brothel, and the girls who worked there -- teenagers from the former Soviet Union -- were in all likelihood being held in conditions amounting to virtual slavery. Several months earlier, Maraj had been crippled by a bullet to the knee because he was willing to testify against a local strongman named Sabit Geci, who was also involved in trafficking and prostitution. Geci was sentenced to six years in prison -- the first major victory against organized crime in Kosovo -- but it cost Maraj his knee. Now he had to walk with crutches and carry a gun for protection and was suspected by the U.N. of engaging in the same kind of crimes that had put his arch-rival in jail.
The convoy of S.U.V.’s ground up the dark, pitted streets of Jablanica Hill and came to a stop a hundred yards from the bar. The raid went down fast. A team of heavily armed U.N. soldiers stood guard on the perimeter while half a dozen police officers rushed the front door and flattened the two bouncers up against the wall. From there they moved into the dimly lit bar and screamed for more light as they pushed the men to one side of the room and the women to the other. Maraj hobbled out on his crutches and played host with as charming a smile as he could muster. “Please, do your jobs,” he invited, sweeping one hand toward the girls, who were already sitting at a table, waiting to be questioned by the police. “There is no problem. You will see.” And in fact he was right. An hour later the police left, empty-handed. Of the dozen or so girls found at the club that night, not one had a forged visa, not one had entered the country illegally, not one admitted having been trafficked, beaten up, raped, or threatened. They just flirted with the police officers and then waved good-bye prettily when the officers trooped back out the door. The incident was all too typical of the failure to combat forced prostitution, which has spiraled out of control, becoming one of Europe’s major problems.
Most of the prostitutes in Kosovo have been trafficked illegally from the poorest parts of the ruined Soviet state. They are lured by the promise of a good job, usually in Italy or Germany, their passports are confiscated, and they generally wind up sold to Albanian pimps, who force them to work in brothels to pay off their “debt,” i.e., what it cost the pimp to buy them. Not surprisingly, the system is set up so that that is virtually impossible, and the women essentially become trapped in the dark, violent world of the Albanian Mafia. A moderately attractive young woman goes for around $1,000. Tall ones are worth more, and very beautiful ones are worth more. Moldovan women are preferred because they are particularly desperate -- the living wage in their country is calculated at $100 a month, and the average income is a quarter of that -- and they are remarkably beautiful. Moldova seems to have beautiful women the way Sierra Leone has diamonds-peculiar national treasures that haven’t done either country much good.
The problem with investigating human trafficking in Europe is that the women themselves often deny needing help. They are too scared, manipulated, or desperate for money to dare admit anything to the police. The only way around the problem is undercover work, but the U.N. mandate in Kosovo until very recently did not include such intelligence gathering. Journalists, however, have never been bound by such rules. One weekday night in the pouring rain, photographer Teun Voeten and I drove out of Pristina toward the Macedonian border, where there are dozens of brothels tucked away in the smaller towns. We were with two Albanian translators, Erol and Valon, who spoke Serbian and whose appearance let them pass for anything -- Serb or Albanian, Kosovar or Macedonian. Our idea was to walk into a brothel, pretend to be American servicemen in Kosovo, and buy an hour or two with one of the women. In the privacy of a motel room, out of sight of the Albanian Mafia, which runs the brothels -- in fact, some would say, runs the whole country -- we could interview the woman with a tape recorder and get the real story of how she got there.
The highway was two narrow lanes of ruined pavement. Convoys of trucks blasted past us in the oncoming lane, and U.N. tanks and armored trucks slowed traffic heading south, toward Macedonia, to a crawl. Albanian rebels had seized a large part of the mountainous border between the two countries, and the U.N. peacekeepers were building up their presence in case they had to intervene on short notice. Off in the distance we could see the diffuse yellow glow of Camp Bondsteel reflecting off the cloud cover. Bondsteel is an enormous American base built close to a nasty little industrial town called Ferizaj. As a result, Ferizaj has an inordinate number of brothels, and at a gas station outside of town, with the rain drumming down and the trucks roaring past, the pump attendant advised us to check out one called the Apaci. It had the best girls in town, he said, so that was where all the American officers went. We thanked him and drove around the ghastly apartment blocks and ruined factories of Ferizaj until we found a low concrete building covered in camouflage netting. It had a photograph of an Apache attack helicopter on the door. We parked by some railroad tracks and walked in.
There are very good reasons why something amounting to slavery has been allowed to thrive in the middle of Europe. Not only is the Albanian Mafia notoriously violent --Kosovo has one of the highest murder rates in Europe -- but it has attempted to infiltrate and buy off both the local police force and the government. “Those who have money here have power,” as one United Nations police officer says. “And the Mafia has money.” Undercover work in the brothels is dangerous, and attempting a police action that the Mafia doesn’t get tipped off to is extremely difficult. Furthermore, the Mafia is deeply intertwined with the Kosovo Liberation Army (K.L.A.), which fought the [Yugoslav] Army and then started an insurrection in Macedonia, and it has access to plenty of weapons. Last year a German relief worker made the mistake of talking to some trafficked women about the possibility of escape, and that night someone attempted to throw a grenade into his hotel room. It was tossed into Room 69, which was empty; the relief worker was staying in Room 96.
No one paid us much attention when we walked in. There was a group of tough-looking Albanians in one corner, talking very seriously among themselves, and an American officer in uniform in another corner with his back to the wall. He was sitting with two Albanian translators and a blonde in a very short skirt who was feigning interest in whatever he was saying. Between her bad English and the music, she couldn’t have understood much. We sat up front by the stage and made sure that the bartender couldn’t get a clear view of Teun, who had a small, low-light camera in his pocket. He carefully took it out and put it under his hat. There were 8 or 10 girls ranged at the table in front of us, drinking soda and smoking cigarettes and barely talking. Some had hair dyed jet black, and the rest had hair bleached so blond it almost looked blue. Occasionally I’d catch one of them looking at us, but then I’d realize she was looking right through us and was too bored even to make eye contact.
They sat with their legs crossed, waiting for their next shift on the stage, occasionally getting up without much enthusiasm to go talk to the table of Albanian men. They were pretty, but not extraordinarily so. A couple looked to be straight out of the Romanian peasantry -- big, strong girls with rough faces and too much makeup -- but one stood out from the rest. She was petite and had platinum-blond hair pulled back tight across her skull and dark glossy lipstick and one of those heartbreaking Slavic faces -- high cheekbones, dark eyes, a slightly Asian cast-that you remember for years. She sat off by herself, oblivious to everyone around her, and when the D.J. put on an Algerian song called “Aicha,” she stubbed out her cigarette and got up to dance. There was something different about her-she was distant from the other girls, almost disdainful. I thought that maybe she would speak more openly than the others. “Her,” I said to Erol before she’d even finished her dance. Erol waved the bartender over, a young guy with his hair bound improbably into a topknot, and negotiated the deal: we were to wait until closing time and then go out to our car and follow the security guys to a motel. The girls would already be there. Erol would go up alone at a cost of about $150. If he wanted to take her home with him he had to put down a deposit of her full price-$2,000-and if she escaped he would forfeit all of it. After she finished her dance the bartender sent her over to our table. She was young-in her late teens, maybe-and unnervingly self-possessed. She sat there playing with her hair and smoking cigarettes and said that it was her first night at the Apaci and she was not happy to be there. She also said that her name was Niki and that she was from a small town in Moldova. (In order to protect her, I have changed her name.) “Where did you work before here?” I asked. “Banja Luka.” Banja Luka was the capital of Serb Bosnia, the site of some of the worst ethnic cleansing in the war. “What did you think of Banja Luka?” “If I could drop a bomb on Banja Luka,” she said, “I would do it tomorrow.”
It was around two in the morning when the lights went up. A hard, ugly rain was coming down outside, and the place had cleared out except for us and the thugs and the girls, who had been herded into the corner. The thugs who ran them were putting on their leather jackets. We were getting ready to go when a heavyset man -- later thought by U.N. investigators to be Bashkim Beqiri -- walked in the door. Beqiri was a local boxing champion who ran a strip bar called Europe 2000. One hand jammed in his pocket, he planted himself before an Apaci security guy and started yelling. The security guy didn’t say much, and his buddies stood around, shifting from foot to foot while the girls looked away and Beqiri hollered. I asked Erol what was going on. “That man wants his money,” Erol whispered back. “He says he wants [$2,000] right now or he’s going to kill the girl.” We couldn’t tell which woman he was talking about. Beqiri turned and walked out the door, saying he would be back the next day. The security guys held a quick council and then herded the women outside into the pouring rain to a couple of late-model BMWs parked next to the railroad tracks. They looked dumb and well-muscled, and they squeezed themselves into a couple more cars and motioned for us to follow. We trailed them in our car through the dark streets of Ferizaj to a place called the Muhaxheri Motel, off a side street at the center of town. The Muhaxheri was a slapdash fivestory modern building with a cheap plastic sign outside and no one at the front desk. The thugs got out of their cars and looked around and then pulled the women out and shoved them toward the door. A police car drove by slowly but didn’t stop. One of the men motioned to Erol, who got out of our car and nodded to us and disappeared into the motel. Another carload of men pulled up and went into the Muhaxheri and came out 10 minutes later and drove off. We waited an hour like that, the rain coming down, an occasional car pulling up and then driving away, and Erol never emerged from the motel.
War has been good for the Albanian Mafia. A massive NATO bombing campaign finally forced the Serbs to concede defeat, and they withdrew on June 10, 1999. Within hours, approximately 43,000 NATO troops poured into Kosovo to impose order, but it wasn’t fast enough. Groups of young Albanian toughs were already patrolling the streets of Pristina and other large towns, establishing control in a society that had been completely sundered by the Serb occupation. Already in a position of power because they had helped fund and arm the K.L.A., the Mafia bought off local officials, infiltrated the police force, and killed anyone they couldn’t intimidate. Kosovo was, and still is, the perfect place to base a criminal network -- chaotic, violent, and ringed by porous borders. Local and international authorities can’t hope to control the trafficking routes. To the north are Serb gangsters who work closely with the Russian Mafia and are only too happy to overlook old ethnic hatreds in the interest of business. To the east are Bulgarian moutri -- “thick-necks,” mostly graduates of wrestling schools -- who work for security firms that double as racketeering outfits. Criminal clans in Albania proper, given free rein by a corrupt, bankrupt, and utterly impotent government, have taken over the port town of Vlorë and use 500- horsepower inflatable rafts called scafi to run illegal immigrants and drugs across the Adriatic into Italy. An estimated 10 percent of the population of Vlorë are in business with the local Mafia, and two-thirds of the cars on the streets have been stolen from Western Europe. Worldwide, the effect has been disastrous. The Balkan drug trade, which moves more than 70 percent of the heroin destined for Europe, is valued at an estimated $400 billion a year. By early 2001 the Albanian Mafia had muscled its competition out of the way and all but taken over London’s crime-ridden red-light district, Soho. Albanian organized crime has established alliances with the Italian Mafia and with criminal gangs in Turkey. In February 2001 an Albanian insurrection started in Macedonia, and the Mafia quickly moved in to help arm and pay for the guerrilla movement that went from several hundred to several thousand men in a matter of months. In some cases, Mafia bosses simply became local rebel commanders and funded their military operations through criminal enterprises that could operate much more effectively under the cover of war.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.) -- part of the temporary governing body in Kosovo -- estimates that around 200,000 women each year are trafficked from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, most of them as prostitutes. The value of their services has been estimated at between $7 and $12 billion. Even before the Kosovo war, human trafficking in Europe -- much of it through the Balkans -- was worth as much as $4 billion a year. Bulgaria alone loses 10,000 women a year to the traffickers. Moldova -- a country so poor that a quarter of the population has emigrated in search of work-reportedly supplies two -- thirds of the prostitutes working in Kosovo. Romania is a distant runner-up, followed by Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania, and Russia. Prostitution became a mainstay of the criminal economy within months of NATO intervention in Kosovo. With 43,000 men stationed on military bases, and spending by international reconstruction groups making up 5 to 10 percent of Kosovo’s economy, the problem was bound to arise. There are now as many as 100 brothels in Kosovo, each employing up to 20 women. Thousands more women are trafficked through Kosovo and on into Western Europe. In southern Macedonia, the town of Velesta has dozens of brothels under the control of a strongman named Leku, who has reportedly paid off the local police and operates in the open with complete impunity. When national authorities tried to crack down on his empire, he threatened to take to the hills and start his own private war. The highway south of the Macedonian town of Tetovo -- long a hotbed of Albanian nationalism and organized crime -- is lined with brothels as well.
Unable to use local women easily -- they aren’t so poor, and their families would come looking for them -- men such as Leku have turned to the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants fleeing the former Soviet Union. Young women who have been promised innocent-sounding jobs in Western Europe, particularly Italy, are typically escorted by Serb or Bulgarian gangsters into Kosovo and Macedonia and then sold to Albanian pimps. By the time they realize what is going on, it is too late. Deprived of their passports, gang-raped, often forced to take drugs, and disoriented by lack of food and sleep, these women find themselves virtual prisoners of whatever brothel they wind up in.
“Once, Leku told a Bulgarian girl to take off her bra when she was dancing,” a Moldovan woman I will call Elena told me. Elena had managed to escape the Macedonian Mafia after months of brutality and servitude. “She didn’t want to, because she was ashamed, so Leku took a belt from the bartender and started beating her. Then he made her go onstage bruised and bleeding and crying.” Another bar Elena worked at was owned by a man she knew as Ayed. Ayed put three new girls in a car and made the rounds of his friends -- they all took turns raping them. They made the girls do things they’d never done before because they were very young. We all lived in one room and slept on mattresses next to each other. There wasn’t enough room, so we had to sleep on our sides. We only ate once a day, and we had to beg toothpaste and soap from our clients. Ayed had a huge ring on his hand, which was shaped like a lion’s head. One day he started beating us one by one in the face.” According to Elena, if they fell down he kicked them, if they cried he beat them, if they looked at him he beat them, if they didn’t look at him he beat them. “I learned about good and evil,” she says. “I saw so many evil people.” After an hour and a half Erol still had not come out, so Valon decided to look for him. He walked into the hotel lobby and heard men talking in the hallway and was spotted by them as he slipped closer. They wanted to know who the hell his friends in the car were. “They’re from the United States,” Valon said. For some reason he added, “One of them is a basketball coach.” That seemed to satisfy the thugs, who kicked him out and said Erol would be out in a few minutes. Erol emerged 10 minutes later, smoking a cigarette and looking shaken. He got into the car and told Valon to get us out of there. “They found the tape recorder,” he said. “They had a lot of questions.” Valon pulled the car into the street, and we drove off through Ferizaj, keeping watch behind us to make sure no one was following. It was three in the morning, and Ferizaj was completely deserted. Erol said they’d found the tape recorder when they patted him down outside Niki’s room, and five or six of them had gathered around and started yelling, demanding explanations. Erol said that it was just his tape recorder and that he took it everywhere with him. They confiscated it and then wrote down his name from his passport. They were very angry and kept telling him not to fuck with them. “Listen,” one of the men had finally said. “Go in the room, finish your job for one hour, or you can go, right here and now.” Erol screwed up his nerve and went into the room.
There was one bed and a window with a narrow balcony and a shower but no toilet. Niki was sitting on the bed, and she started to undress when he walked in. “You don’t have to do that -- I’m not here for that,” he said. “I just want to talk to you.” She’d probably had stranger requests before -- they all must have. He asked her where she was from and how she’d gotten here, and she became very serious and told her story. This is what Erol could remember of it on the drive back to Pristina: Niki was from Moldova; her father was dead, and she had lived with her mother. She’d been promised a good job by a recruiter in Moldova who was actually in league with the Mafia, and she wound up trafficked to Banja Luka. Banja Luka was hell on earth, she said. Every customer was drunk and many were violent -- one even grabbed her bellybutton ring and ripped it right out. A month ago she had been trafficked to Ferizaj, where she wound up at Europe 2000. She escaped from ther the day before and sought refuge in the Apaci. Tonight her previous “owner” --Beqiri -- had come looking for her at the Apaci and said he was going to kill her if he didn’t get back her purchase price. She didn’t have the money, and neither did the owner of the Apaci. That was the argument we had witnessed. She was the girl they’d been arguing over. “I like life very much. I’m too young to die,” Niki had told Erol. “I’m just 18 years old.” Erol asked her if she was free to go home to Moldova if she wanted. She said that she was, but then admitted that she didn’t actually have her passport. (In all likelihood, Beqiri did.) She wasn’t even sure that any of the $150 Erol had paid for her would wind up in her pocket, so he gave her all the money he had on him, a 10 deutschemark note (about $5). On it he wrote, “For Niki, the most beautiful girl.” She gave him a cigarette lighter in return. His last question was whether she ever had feelings for the guys she was with, or were they all the same? “Of course sometimes I have feelings,” she said. “I’m human.” Erol told her he was sorry and said goodbye and walked out of the room.
The next day we went to the police station in Gnjilane to report what we’d seen. Not only was there plenty of evidence of trafficking and prostitution in Niki’s case, but there was reason to believe her life was in danger. The deputy police chief in Gnjilane was an American named Bill Greer, who quickly organized a group of Kosovar police to raid the Apaci. (U.N. police officers are training local Albanians -- many of them taken from the ranks of the disarmed Kosovo Liberation Army -- and Serbs in basic police procedure.) The newly trained cops crowded into Greer’s office and strapped on their guns and flak jackets while he explained through a translator: “We’re going to get a young lady who’s been threatened with being exterminated. She ran away from one pimp to the Apaci, and he came after her and demanded [$2,000] or she’d be killed.” The owner of the Apaci, Sevdush Veseli, was well known to the authorities. He’d already been detained for trafficking a young Romanian woman, but when it came time to make a statement to the judge, she was too frightened to repeat what she’d said earlier to the police, so they had to let him go. Veseli was a former member of the K.L.A. who wasn’t known to be particularly violent, but Greer wasn’t taking any chances. He sent half a dozen local police, backed up by a couple of U.N. officers, and they picked up reinforcements at the Ferizaj police station before bursting through the door at the Apaci. All they found was an old guy mopping the floor. If Veseli hadn’t been tipped off before, he certainly knew something was up now. Our little escapade the night before couldn’t have escaped his notice, and he must have figured out that Niki had been the object of today’s raid. Between the police and Beqiri, she was causing him more problems than she could possibly be worth. That meant that, one way or another, he would probably try to get her off his hands.
That afternoon Ali Osman, a Turkish police officer who headed the Trafficking and Prostitution Investigation Unit in Gnjilane, sent word to Veseli that he was to appear at the police station the following morning with all of his dancers. Technically the Apaci was just a strip joint on the outskirts of Ferizaj. And technically the police could round up the employees anytime they wanted to check their visas and work papers. At nine the next morning, Teun and I showed up at the police station to watch the interrogation of a dozen or so women employed by Sevdush Veseli at the Apaci. The women were seated in a small room, smoking and looking annoyed. Teun and I walked in, glanced around, and told Osman that Niki was not among them. That was no surprise. We went into Osman’s office; the next step was to question the women individually, where we could speak freely without the other girls or their bosses listening in. Not only might they know what happened to Niki, but some of them might want out. Those were the ones who could provide testimony of trafficking and prostitution at the Apaci, which was what Osman needed to put Veseli behind bars. Since undercover investigations were not allowed at this time under the U.N. mandate, convicting someone like Veseli usually depends on testimony from the prostitutes. It’s a delicate game, though. First, there are plenty of prostitutes who -- no matter how desperate their lives -- have decided that anything is better than what they escaped from back home. Their pimp may be a violent alcoholic, but maybe their husband or father was, too, and at least here they have the possibility of making a little money. “You’re fighting against the most appalling economic conditions,” says Alison Jolly of the O.S.C.E. in Pristina. “And one of the worst myths is that these women want to become prostitutes. I mean in a sense, yes, but how much of a choice is it when the alternative is to stand in a breadline trying to feed your child? You’re a paid slave, but you’re still a slave. I personally consider it a very clever ruse by the pimps to pay the women something. This is a recent development. These guys are very smart, and a little intimidation goes a long way.”
Even for the ones who are desperate to escape, though, making the leap into police custody is risky. To begin with, the pimps have convinced their prostitutes that the police will simply throw them in jail for prostitution or visa violations -- which was true until U.N. regulations were recently established that overrode the Yugoslav Criminal Code. Furthermore, the women know that -- since they were recruited back home -- the Mafia network extends into the smallest villages of their home country. When a pimp promises to harm a prostitute or her family, it is not an idle threat. The first woman they brought into Osman’s office was a short, dark-haired Moldovan who pretended barely to understand Serbian. She said she had come by taxi through Romania into Serbia, then across the internal border into Kosovo. She claimed she was just a stripper, not a prostitute, and made about $50 a month at the Apaci. “Tell her we are here to help her,” Osman said to the translator. “She has no problem with the police.” She said nothing, so Osman sent her out. The next woman was Romanian, dressed in tight black pants, a purple spandex halter, and the same high-heeled white sandals as the previous girl. When she also claimed to be just a dancer, Osman told her that her owner had sold his girls to customers, had threatened them, had beaten them. She feigned surprise and said that her owner was very nice. “One day everything will change, you will see,” Osman told her. He was playing tough cop, but I could see concern softening his eyes. Maybe he had a teenage daughter back home. “And when it does, I may not be able to do anything.” Finally a tall blonde came in. I recognized her as the one who had sat with the American officer at the Apaci. She said that her name was Kristina and that she was from a small village in Moldova. She was wearing the same tight vinyl pants as the second woman but had different sandals and a lot less makeup. In the light of day she looked rougher, a more hardened version of her dance-floor self. I could see what she would look like as an old woman. She sat smirking with her legs spread and her feet cocked provocatively back on her high heels. She was smart and confident and said she spoke five languages well -- all the countries she’d worked in. She said that she had come here by taxi from Moldova, and that her trip was paid for by a friend back home named Oleg. She had stayed in a house in Serbia for a while and then crossed the internal border into Kosovo two weeks ago. “I heard about those houses with women waiting there,” Osman said. “People come from Kosovo to pick you out.” He pretended to be a buyer: “You, you, and you!” “I don’t know anything about it,” Kristina said. “I am sure you were trafficked. You were sold.” “No.” “Someone paid for you. Someone paid money for you.” “Nyet.” “Da.” “Nyet.” “Da. You have no trouble with the police. Our job is to arrest the pimps, not you.” “I am telling you the truth, sir.” Before he let her go, Osman allowed me to ask her some questions. I described Niki and asked if she knew her. Kristina furrowed her brow in a parody of concentration and finally shook her head. “Do you remember sitting at a table with an American officer at the back of the room two nights ago?” “Yes.” “Do you remember four men at a table sitting close to the stage?” “No.” “One more question,” I said. “Have you ever seen me before in your life?” We’d spent an hour about three feet from her -- at one point she’d even given us a smile. Now, she looked straight at me, touched one hand to her hair, and laughed. “No,” she said. “Never.”
Some do escape. The International Organization for Migration (I.O.M.), which is charged with sheltering migrants and sending them back to their home countries, rescued more than 700 women from the Balkans and Italy during the year 2000. Elena, who was “owned” by Leku, escaped into police custody in a Macedonian town named Kumanovo, only to be sold by the police back to another bar owner. Through the help of a sympathetic client, she finally managed to make it to an I.O.M. office in Macedonia, where she was taken care of and eventually put on a plane for home. There she was installed in an I.O.M. safe house in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, and given psychiatric counseling and job training.
Another Moldovan woman, whom I’ll call Nina, left her husband to work in Italy as a waitress or cleaning lady because her son had a degenerative disease and she needed money to pay for his treatment. She wound up getting trafficked to Romania, where she was drugged and put on a train to Belgrade. Unable to buy her freedom, she wound up being sold again, this time to a brothel owner in the Bosnian town of Doboj, where she discovered that her husband had gotten her pregnant before she left. Her owner -- unable to persuade her to have an abortion -- took her to a corrupt doctor, who she suspects gave her an injection that induced miscarriage. A customer at the bar who found out what had happened slipped her the equivalent of $200 and offered his help. She eventually escaped to a local I.O.M. office and made it back to Chisinau, though she never told her husband the details of what had happened to her.
Inevitably, the women who are driven to escape are the ones who have suffered the most trauma and are most urgently in need of care. But they are also the ones who have the most damning evidence against the traffickers and, theoretically, the most reason to want to put them in jail. This is where the agendas of the I.O.M. and U.N. prosecutors diverge slightly. With no witness protection program yet in place to shelter the women, the I.O.M. argues that their safety will be compromised if they are detained in Kosovo. Furthermore, there is insufficient funding to lodge them in safe houses for the duration of a criminal trial. For their part, U.N. prosecutors argue that in the long run the problem cannot be solved -- in other words, the traffickers will never end up behind bars -- if these women don’t provide testimony.
The problem is made more complicated by the thicket of legal issues surrounding trafficking and prostitution. In the United States, gathering evidence of prostitution is fairly straightforward. Since it is nearly impossible to prove that a customer is not the prostitute’s boyfriend, undercover cops pose as customers in order to prove prostitution charges. In Kosovo, however, the U.N. police force was until very recently prohibited from surreptitious intelligence gathering, and the Kosovo Police Service -- the local police corps -- has not yet been sufficiently trained in undercover work. (K.P.S. officers, who are paid only $230 a month, are also highly vulnerable to corruption, making security breaches almost unavoidable.) In addition, most of Europe has extremely rigorous standards for admitting into a trial evidence gained by an agent provocateur. A police action that in this country would be considered a standard “buy and bust” operation is more likely in Europe to be considered entrapment and therefore excluded as evidence. As a result, the prostitutes themselves are needed to provide testimony against the pimps.
Witness-protection concerns aside, this raises legal issues. A woman who accuses someone of being her pimp is implicitly admitting to prostitution, which is in itself punishable by jail. To get around this, Section 8 of United Nations Regulation 2001/4 -- which supersedes pre-existing local laws -- declares that providing evidence of trafficking protects the woman against charges of prostitution. “Section 8 understands that in many cases, but not all, a foreign woman in Kosovo finds herself a stranger in a strange land,” says Michael Hartmann, an international prosecutor for the U.N. in Kosovo, “and that she was basically not given a choice. Even though she became a prostitute voluntarily, one could assume that she is someone who would not ordinarily do that.” Because she is at risk, it is not in her best interest to remain in Kosovo long enough to provide testimony against her owner in a criminal trial. As a result, U.N. regulations allow for videotaped testimony to be admitted in court. This has its own shortcomings, however. A good defense attorney can argue that his inability to cross-examine his client’s accuser weakens the value of the evidence, and -- more insidiously -- video testimony can even be viewed skeptically by a biased judge.
Major criminal trials in Kosovo have two international judges sit on a panel with three local, or “lay,” judges. This panel hears all evidence and then comes to a verdict. The lay judges, however, occasionally display the prejudices of the highly patriarchal Kosovar culture. They tend to blame the woman for her troubles, in other words. “The majority of rape cases are fabricated by the alleged victims, seeking revenge, or trying to pressure the defendant to force a marriage proposal,” one judge, according to an O.S.C.E. report, declared before a rape trial. Even a perfect system, however, would face daunting enforcement challenges.
New U.N. regulations have made trafficking itself a crime, apart from the related issues of assault, rape, forced prostitution, etc. Trafficking is defined, in part, by the level of deception involved: if a trafficker tells a woman she is going to be a waitress and then transports her across a border to sell her into prostitution, he is guilty of trafficking whether she went voluntarily or not. As a result, traffickers have changed their strategy to get around this new, looser definition of the crime. Instead of slipping across borders at night, for example, they pay off border guards so that the women have legitimate visas in their passports. They coach the women in what to say if they are questioned by the police -- some of whom are corrupt and have been bought off in the first place. They have placed informants throughout the local and U.N. administrations. And they have started offering the trafficked women just enough money to keep them in the game. “Ultimately the problem is the economic conditions that make prostitution the only thing these women can do,” says Alison Jolly. “ Even when jobs come onstream, it’s not going to be the women who get them. For some countries it will be decades before the economic situation is such that you don’t need to take the risks associated with trafficking. They think, Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find something better out there.”
In late March 2001, two women were arrested in Chisinau [Moldova] for selling illegal meat in plastic bags. Suspicious, the authorities tested it and confirmed their worst fears: the meat was human. The women said that they had gotten it at the state cancer clinic, and that they had been driven by poverty to sell it. Only weeks earlier, the World Health Organization had warned that Moldova’s economic collapse had created a thriving transplant market in human kidneys and other body parts. Some people were voluntarily selling their organs for cash, and others were being tricked into it in a ruse similar to the one used to lure women into prostitution. Moldova -- pummeled by droughts, cold spells, and the 1998 Russian financial crisis -- has become by far the poorest country in Europe. The average salary is $30 a month, unemployment is reportedly at 25 percent (though much higher in rural areas), and up to one million Moldovans -- nearly a quarter of the country -- have gone abroad to work. Some villages have lost half of their population, and virtually all their young people. Every year these migrants wire home an average of $120 million, which is equivalent to half the national budget. Two-thirds of the budget, however, is sent right back overseas to service the nation’s foreign debt. With productivity only 40 percent of what it was under the Soviets, Moldova has voted back in a Communist government. It is the only former Soviet republic to have returned so unabashedly to its past.
Teun and I have left Kosovo. It is now several months later, and we’re driving through the emptied and sullen countryside of Moldova. We have come to see this place where, according to a significant proportion of the trafficked women, life is even worse than in the brothels of Kosovo. It’s a low, dark day that will soon deteriorate into a pounding rainstorm that will fill up the rivers and wash out the roads and force the villagers to take off their shoes and carry them under their jackets. That’s what you do when you own only one pair. Village after village stands nearly empty, the brightly painted wooden gates of the houses hanging open and the weeds growing up around the palings. Cornstalks are piled against the fences to dry, and an occasional horse cart rattles by with an old man at the reins. Sodden hills checkered with woods roll south toward the town of Kagul and the Romanian border. There are no workers in the fields, no cars on the roads, no children in the houses. It is as if a great plague had swept through, leaving behind a landscape out of medieval Europe, out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Kagul is the center of trafficking in southern Moldova, and we are with a woman I’ll call Natalia, who was trafficked through Kagul and just made it home a few weeks ago. Natalia’s story is so horrendous that I’m tempted to think she has embellished it, but at this point I’ve heard and read so many accounts of trafficked women, and the brutality is so consistent, that I’ve given up looking for some other explanation. These are troubled, traumatized women who may have distorted, misremembered, or even fabricated details of their experience, but their testimonies are unfortunately too similar to be doubted.
Natalia grew up in a desperately poor village named Haragij, where people survived on whatever they could grow, and children had to bring their own firewood to school in the winter. At age 16 she was married against her will to a violent alcoholic who wound up beating her so badly that he fractured her skull and almost killed her. She says the police in her town were so corrupt that they had to be bribed in order to even consider arresting him, so she decided to leave and look for work in Chisinau instead. She had two young children, and she was determined to support them. She wound up being trafficked twice. The first time she fell for the standard scam: a trafficker offered her a good job in Italy, but she was sold to a brothel in Macedonia. With the help of the I.O.M., she eventually escaped, but when she made it back to Moldova, she found out that her younger sister had been trafficked as well. Now knowing that world inside out, she decided to go back to Chisinau and get herself sold into prostitution one more time. It was the only way she could think of to get back to the Balkans and bring her sister home. It didn’t take long. Within a few days she met a woman who passed her the phone number of a man who supposedly could get her work in Italy. She met with him -- a well-dressed and impressive businessman of 35 or so -- and he offered to put her up in his apartment. She soon found herself with about 40 other women in an apartment somewhere in Chisinau. From this point on, her life would no longer be her own.
The women who didn’t have passports were given fake ones and charged for them, which was the beginning of their debt. They were first taken by car to Constanta, Romania, and from there to the banks of the Danube, which they crossed at night by boat. Now they were in Serbia. There they were forced to walk across fields at night to a road, where they were picked up by a man named Milos, who she says took them to the White Star café-bar in the town of Kraljevo. There were dozens of women -- Moldovans, Ukrainians, Romanians -- being held in the basement of the bar, waiting to be bought by brokers for the Albanian Mafia. Natalia spent several weeks there and was then moved across the lightly guarded internal border from Serbia into Kosovo. There she was sold to a place called #1, in the town of Mitrovica. The women at #1 were all on drugs -- pot, morphine, pharmaceuticals, coke -- and fell into two categories: slaves and girlfriends of the owner, a Serb Natalia referred to as Dajan. The girlfriends were the most beautiful ones and were given a certain degree of privilege in exchange for keeping order among the regular prostitutes, whom they held in contempt. One girlfriend tried to force a new Moldovan girl to have sex with her, and when Natalia stood up for the girl, she was beaten by the owner. In revenge, Natalia says, she found some rusty thumbtacks and put them on the woman’s office chair, and when the woman sat on them she got an infection that sent her to the hospital. Natalia never saw her again.
The schedule was brutal. They had to stripdance from eight P.M. until six A.M., taking time to go in back with clients if called upon, and they had to be up at eight A.M. in case there were clients during the day. She says the customers were a mix of local Serbs and United Nations personnel. The prostitutes made around $30 per client and $1 for each drink the client bought, which was all put toward their debt. Natalia owed $1,500, but the owner deducted for food, lodging, clothes, and, of course, drugs, particularly cocaine, which the girls freebased in back. The new girls lived at the bar, and the ones who had repaid more than half their debt lived in an apartment, because the owner didn’t want the experienced ones warning the new ones about what was going to happen to them. If a particular girl got close to repaying her debt, the owner sold her off to someone else, and she had to start all over again.
One day, according to Natalia, Dajan’s brother killed an Albanian man at the bar, and the police finally came and shut the place down. The girls were hidden from the police before the raid, and Natalia was sold off to another bar in Mitrovica, but there her luck changed. The toilet had a small window in it, and she managed to crawl out and escape. She walked all night and made it to Pristina, but instead of turning herself in to the I.O.M., she hitched a ride to Ferizaj. She had heard a rumor that her sister was in one of the Ferizaj bars, and she wanted to try to find her. Natalia could not track down her sister, but at the Alo Bar she started talking to a beautiful and morose Moldovan woman named Niki. Niki was the girlfriend of the owner, an Albanian named Tus, and she said that she had been trafficked to Bosnia and then to the Apaci bar in Ferizaj, where she wound up in some kind of trouble. “She told me that someone tried to help her and she thought that the owner noticed and so he sold her,” Natalia says. We are squeezed into the backseat of a Russian Lada on the way to Kagul. It has been raining hard all morning, and the creeks are up over the roads; the locals are using horses to drag cars through the washouts. “She told me there was something special on their faces,” Natalia goes on. “She was afraid they were journalists and she didn’t want to screw up her reputation back home. One of them questioned her, but he wasn’t in love with he -- she said he was either a journalist . . . or maybe the police.” Natalia spent hours talking to Niki, almost certainly the same woman we had tried to help.
Either Natalia somehow heard about our experience and just repeated it to us, or the Kosovo underworld is so small and sordid -- and the girls get shuffled around so much -- that they just wind up meeting one another. Niki kept a diary, and during the time they were together she had let Natalia read it. I had told Niki my name when she came to our table, and in her journal she had referred to me as Sebastian Bach. She wrote that she must somehow have deserved the terrible things that happened to her, and so it didn’t make sense that we were trying to help her. The owner had been tipped off that there was going to be a raid, and she had actually hidden herself when the police came looking for her after we left. She was scared of them because she knew that most of them were also customers at the bar. She knew that only the O.S.C.E. could help her, but she didn’t want to escape before she had a little money to return home with. Also, she feared going to jail if she turned herself in to the police. In the meantime, she had taken some photos at the Alo Bar that she would try to send home to her mother. That way -- however unrealistic the hope -- her mother might be able to help her.
We arrive in Kagul in early afternoon, and Natalia takes us to the Flamingo Bar, which is near the bus station. It’s a cheap-looking place with Formica tabletops and louver blinds on the windows. This is where the traffickers try to pick up girls who are waiting for buses to Chisinau or Bucharest. Well-dressed men come and go from the tables, and Natalia hides her face from them because she’s afraid of being recognized. She got a crew cut a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to disguise herself, but she still lives in fear that they’ll somehow find out she escaped. I ask her if she would testify against her traffickers if she had the chance. “What would I do about my family?” she asks. “The police would lock up one guy, and there are 10 more . . . We’d have to leave the country. It’s better that I forget. I just pretend I don’t see anything, and I go on with my life.”
It was not until July 2001 that Moldova passed an anti-trafficking law. Recruiting for and organizing the trafficking of a human being abroad for the purpose of sexual exploitation, slavery, criminal or military activity, pornography, or “other loathsome purposes” is now punishable by up to 15 years in jail. Traffickers can get up to 25 years if their crimes involve minors, groups of people, the use of violence, or the taking of internal organs. The Moldovan law is modeled after U.N. regulations, but enforcing it is even more daunting here than in Kosovo. In a country where doctors make around $30 a month, buying off the entire justice system-from the police right on up to the judges on the bench-presents no particular difficulty for the Moldovan Mafia. There are honest cops and judges, but they face a trafficking system that is so fluid and hard to pin down that it is almost impossible to crack.
The process often starts with a completely legal classified ad in the newspaper: “Hiring girls without complexes for the work abroad” is a common one. The ad includes a phone number, and the initial contact is usually a woman, often one who was trafficked and has been blackmailed or otherwise coerced into doing the job. From there, the recruits are handed over to the traffickers themselves, whose job it is to get them across the border into Romania. In many ways that is the smallest obstacle in the entire process. Passports can be bought or forged for just a few hundred dollars, border guards can be bribed for even less, and the border itself is so porous that until recently the authorities didn’t even bother to keep records of who went back and forth. (The Moldovan government is still hoping for an international loan that will allow it to buy a computer system to handle that task.) Once the girls are in Romania, they’re almost always beyond help.
Vastly adding to the problem is the psychology of both the new recruits and the ones who have made it back. Not only are they poor, uneducated, and desperate, but they have grown up in a society that tolerates such astronomical levels of domestic violence that almost any kind of abuse could be considered normal, even deserved. “During the Soviet times there weren’t as many social problems,” says Lilia Gorceag, an American trained psychologist who treats women at the I.O.M. safe house in Chi¸sinˇau. “There was some kind of stability. Now that everything is gone, all our frustrations and fears have been converted to a fear about tomorrow, and it really increased the levels of violence.” According to Gorceag, one of the more common reactions to a violent childhood or marriage -- not to mention a violent trafficking experience -- is massive feelings of guilt. Niki’s conviction that she somehow deserved her fate is a classic example of this sort of psychological defense. “Most trafficked women have very negative sexual experiences during childhood,” says Gorceag. “Many were raped when they were young -- I have many patients who had been raped by the age of 12, sometimes by their own father. They adopt a perspective that they have been created to satisfy someone else’s sexual needs. They consider themselves depraved, unacceptable to family and friends. And very few men here would tolerate it if they found out a woman had been trafficked. I know one 19-year-old woman who says her brother would kill her if he found out.”
Such a woman is perfect prey for a trafficker, and a good candidate for relapsing into prostitution even if she makes it back to Moldova. Gorceag says that women who are trafficked to Turkey, Greece, and Italy generally survive their experiences psychologically intact, but the ones who wind up in the Balkans are utterly destroyed as people. They exhibit classic symptoms of severe post-traumatic stress disorder: they can’t focus; they can’t follow schedules; they’re apathetic to the point of appearing somnambulistic; they fly into violent rages or plunge into hopeless depression; some even live in terror that someone will come and take them away. Their condition keeps them from functioning normally in a family or a job, and that puts them at even greater risk of being trafficked again. “One of my patients ate napkins,” says Gorceag. “When I took away the napkins, she started eating newspaper. She wasn’t even aware of what she was doing. There is another patient who counts. She counts everything. When she can’t find anything to count, she turns her sleeve and counts the stitching. These are people with completely destroyed psyches. It’s a form of genocide. I know that’s a very strong word, but I live with 22 of these women, and I see their suffering every day.”
On our last day in Moldova, Teun and I meet Natalia to look at some photos she wants
to show us. I have just received word from members of the U.N.
anti-trafficking unit in Kosovo that they think they have found the bar where
Niki is working, and they want me to fly back there to participate in a
police raid. That way I can identify her so she can
be sent home to Moldova, whether she wants to be or not. It’s a beautiful
fall day, and Natalia and Teun and I sit down at an
outdoor café next to two puff-pastry blondes who are wearing maybe an ounce
of fabric between them. Natalia-tough, smart, and battered by her experience
in Kosovo-tosses them a dismissive look. “What do those women want?” I ask
her. “What are they looking for?” “Men with money,” Natalia says. “Moldovan
women have become very cold, very callous. They don’t want to fall in love.
They just want to meet a rich guy, and most of the guys with money are thugs.
It’s their mothers who push them into this -- that’s the worst part.” The
photos Natalia shows us were taken at a bar when she was working as a
prostitute. One was taken a few days after she arrived; she’s very drunk and
her eyes are red from crying. She has long, glamorous hair and very red lipstick
and a forced smile that says more about her situation than any expression of
hate or fear. There is none of the wry sarcasm in her eyes that I have become
so fond of. I tell her that Niki has been located, and that if I go back to
identify her she in all likelihood will be
repatriated to Moldova. “What should we do?” I ask. “Would we just be making
things worse for her?” “Yes, I think so,” Natalia says without hesitation. “So we shouldn’t go to the police?” Natalia takes a drag on
the cigarette we gave her and crushes it in the ashtray. For her this is
clearly not a question of principle; it’s a question of guessing what Niki
herself would want. If Niki were tied up in a basement getting raped, the
answer would be easy: break down the door and save her. But she’s not. She’s
imprisoned by a web of manipulation and poverty and threat and, much as I
hate to admit it, personal choice. The answers aren’t so obvious. “She would
just deny that she’s a prostitute,” says Natalia. “Look, there’s nothing here
for her. If you brought her home you’d have some sort of .
. . ” She casts around for the right words. “Moral responsibility?”
“Yes,” Natalia says, never taking her eyes off me. “Exactly.”
task before the international community
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