Born in Armenia but unable to find work there, Amasya was trafficked to Turkey, where victims also arrive from Ukraine and Moldova, and manipulated into a situation of prostitution. As well as Turkey and the UAE, Armenian women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation to Russia, Greece, and other European countries. It is estimated that 480,000 people are living in slavery in Turkey. The Turkish government significantly increased its law enforcement response in 2007 by convicting and punishing more traffickers. However, there is a lack of secure and consistent government support for trafficking shelters, hindering Turkey’s anti-trafficking efforts.
When the war started I decided to go to Karabakh to help wounded soldiers. I was there during the whole period of military activities. After the cease-fire I came to Armenia, but there was no work and no means to live. My neighbor was going to Turkey to do trade. She said that the Turkish agency could help us in getting a job that would allow us to earn some money to buy products to sell in Armenia. This was a very good way out for me; at least I thought so. We went to the Turkish bus agency and bought tickets. The bus operator said that it was always possible to get a job in Turkey and their agency could help us there. Everything was going very well. In Istanbul the agency recommended us to a man who introduced himself as an owner of a sewing factory. He said that that even if we did not know how to sew clothing he could still arrange a job there. He always needed helping hands. He also advised us to rent a small apartment of somebody he knew well. That day he asked us to give him our passports for registering us as temporary residents. We did not object.
The next day he took us to his 'factory.' It was not a factory at all, it was a massage parlor or brothel, we could not understand. He told us that we should clean up there and prepare coffee and drinks to serve to customers. He told us that we should wear short dresses and other pieces of very vulgar clothing. We did not want to do that, but we realized that we had no choice. At the end of the month we asked for the salary, but he said that we had not earned the promised amount of $400, but that he could give us only $100 to cover the rent for the flat. We could earn the rest by providing sexual services to men. If we did not agree we would never receive our passports. As our visas had already expired and we were staying illegally in Turkey they could send us to prison. I could not believe that it was happening to me: that somebody could use my vulnerable situation and threaten me.
Next day I went to him and said that I would agree to his proposal if he gave back my money and passport. He agreed to give me money, but he said that he needed my passport to extend the visa. Two weeks later he gave me only $200 instead of $700, and explained that it was due to costs related to food and expenses for visa extension. We worked 12 to 14 hours instead of the agreed ten. He said that he had also bribed the police to leave me unpunished for working illegally in Turkey. I realized that this man was going to create big problems for me if I did not take some steps. The next day we told him that we would go to the police if he did not pay us and give back our passports. He said that the next day he would have the passport and money ready. When we came home that night our landlord said that he could not let us in anymore because we were illegal. He refused to let us in and we could not even take our belongings.
We had no other choice than go to the police department. We were unable to make ourselves understood nor did we have any documents, so they kept us one night at the police station. The next day we were taken to the immigration police for deportation. Thanks God our stay was not long: we had to stay there for one night, as the bus to Armenia was leaving in the morning and the drivers agreed to take us to Armenia on the condition that we would pay them in Yerevan. I do not want to remember again the night that we spent in the immigration police. Even though I have seen the horrors of war, that night was unimaginable.
Narrative as told to the International Organization for Migration, 2000, in Yerevan, Albania.