Egypt is a transit country for women trafficked from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union to Europe and Israel for sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking occurs as well: Ragaa is an Egyptian woman trafficked into sex slavery within Egypt in 1995, and children are trafficked from rural areas to work as laborers in the agriculture industry. Each year over one million children between the ages of seven and 12 work 11 hours a day for Egypt’s agricultural cooperatives on cotton pest management. They face routine beatings by their foremen, and exposure to heat and pesticides.Ragaa’s experience included the offer of a “pleasure marriage,” which is a temporary arrangement to permit sexual intercourse, and a “temporary marriage,” because brothels are forbidden by law and Islamic Sharia in Egypt. Then she explains that her escape brought no sense that the experience was over. The problem of freedom after bondage was an ongoing fear of her traffickers.
In 1995, there were no job opportunities, so I worked on commission selling goods in the street markets for a man named Mr. Asam Abass Mohamed. I had been working for only five days with some other people, when on the sixth day Mr. Mohamed ordered me to stay and guard the goods while everybody else went out. He then offered me some juice with breakfast. I drank it, and afterward lost consciousness.
When I awoke, I had been raped and was locked in a hotel room. I didn’t know where I was. Then some strange people came and took me to a train station. They took me to a small village called Nga Wansy, in the Aswan governorate in southern Egypt. There they threatened me, locked me up and beat me, until I became very ill. They tried to rape me in spite of my sickness. When I protested, they offered me a pleasure marriage but I refused. They locked me up again for a long time, leaving me alone in my room. They told me that if I tried to go back to my family, my parents would blame me and kill me for running away.
They moved me all across the country to different places, torturing me and trying to have sex with me. In the town of Adko in Bihera governorate, the people who were keeping me tried to force me to accept other temporary marriages. I refused again.
By chance, my family—my mother, my sister and her husband—found me in a city near Zakazik. They helped me to escape and I went to my father’s house, where I stay now. I am living in terror of those people who kept me for so long. The police refuse to protect me.
Narrative as told to the Egyptian Center of Human Rights for National Unity in Cairo, 1997, in Cairo, Egypt.