Bahar was born in Moldova and trafficked into sex slavery in Turkey. Moldova is a country origin for the trafficking of women and children into European sex slavery. Its economic conditions fuel this trafficking. In 2000, the country’s GDP was 40 percent of its level in 1990. Unemployment remains high, especially among women. People are forced to look outside of the country for work and pimps take advantage: some victims are kidnapped but more often they answer job advertisements promising work and then are forced into sex slavery. Most Moldovan trafficking victims are taken to the Balkan countries, though other destinations include Asia, Turkey, Western Europe and the Middle East.
I live with my mother. I never knew my father. We make handiwork for money and live in a small village outside Comrat with other Romas. It is very hard for us because we do not have a man in our home, and every winter we do not have enough food to eat or wood for heating. In 2003, Turk men came to our community and told many girls they can work in a hotel in Istanbul for $500 per month, but we must go next week to get the jobs. They said they will pay for our passport and transportation.
I went for this job with five other girls. I thought: “I will make so much money that my mother will never be cold in the winter again.” They took our picture for the passport and gave us a visa. We went by mini-bus and ferry to Turkey. It was no problem to cross the border. In Istanbul we were taken to an apartment. These men left us there and said other men will take us to the hotel. They did not leave us any food for four hours. The other men came late that night when we were asleep. They gave us food and alcohol, and then they raped us. One girl shouted, and they whipped her on the back with leather belts. They said if we want to live we must have sex with any man who comes to this apartment. If we do not, they said they will kill our families in Comrat. They took three girls from the apartment and left me and two others.
Many Turkish men came everyday for sex. They didn’t care about having sex with all three of us at once in the same room. After a few weeks, one of the girls bit a client who was hurting her. The client beat her very badly and broke her jaw. The pimps took her from the apartment, and a few days later another girl came. She was very young. She was also from my village in Moldova. There was no electricity or phone in the room, and no windows. I think one man was always in the apartment next to us, and if we made too much noise, he threatened to beat us. Sometimes the police came and had sex with us. Sometimes the men who first brought me to Istanbul came for sex.
After one year, the men from the apartment sent me home. I saw my mother and burst into tears. I tried to lie to her that I had done cleaning work in a hotel, but I could not. She asked why I had never written to her, and I told her the truth. She told the police, but they could do nothing. Those men had left long ago from Comrat, but they took 30 girls from our village in one year since I was gone.
Narrative as told to Siddharth Kara, October 31, 2005, in Comrat, Moldova.