Lebanon Shocked Over Trafficking of Syrian Women

Lebanon Shocked Over Trafficking of Syrian WomenLebanon Shocked Over Trafficking of Syrian Women

Back in Syria, the young women were told they would get well-paid jobs at restaurants and hotels in Lebanon. But when they arrived, their belongings and mobile phones were taken away and the women were locked up in two hotels north of Beirut and forced into prostitution.

What followed was an ordeal of beatings, torture and abuse, until Lebanese security forces raided the hotels and dismantled the operation in late March, AP reported.

The discovery of the sex trafficking ring and the rescue of the women deeply shocked tiny Lebanon, a Mediterranean Arab nation already overwhelmed by the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war and prompted calls for investigation. The case, which involves 75 female victims, is considered the worst sex trafficking scandal in Lebanon in decades and has raised questions about who might have shielded and enabled such a vast network.

When they were found in the Chez Maurice and Silver Hotel in the town of Maamelteine, 20 kilometers north of the Lebanese capital, the women were said to have been in miserable condition. The three-story Chez Maurice looked more like a jail than a hotel when it was recently visited by an AP crew, with bars on balconies and windows.

A whip was seen lying on one of the guard tables. The premises have been sealed off and official documents were stamped on the gates, barring entry.

The Syrian women were brought to Lebanon in stages over the past several months. Those who refused to work as prostitutes were repeatedly raped and tortured until they submitted, according to Lebanese women’s rights activists.

“Some reported that they were forced to have sex with 20 clients per day,” said Maya al-Ammar, an official with women’s rights group Kafa, which is Arabic for “Enough”.

After the women were freed, the Health Ministry sealed a clinic belonging to gynecologist Riad al-Alam, who authorities say was involved in preforming abortions for trafficked Syrian women who got pregnant. Lebanese Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the doctor “should be in prison where he should rot”. Al-Alam’s license has been revoked by a medical workers’ union.

Al-Ammar, the women’s rights activist, said some 200 abortions were carried out at the clinic, though she did not provide the source for the data.

The case of the trafficked Syrians went public after police raided the two hotels and freed the women. Lebanese police spokesman, Col. Joseph Msalem, said several guards, both male and female, were detained but the two ringleaders remain at large.

Last Saturday, dozens of Lebanese rallied outside the Ministry of Justice in Beirut, demanding that those behind the trafficking be brought to justice and punished.