Born in Armenia, Farida was trafficked to Turkey, where victims also arrive from Ukraine and Moldova. As well as Turkey and the UAE, Armenian women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation to Russia, Greece, and other European countries. In this narrative, Farida discusses the pressures that led to her seeking out work in another country, and also reveals that fear of the immigration police in Turkey made it harder for her to leave her situation. Like many others who return to their home country after being trafficked abroad, Farida notes that her circumstances are still as precarious as before she left.
When my husband died I was left alone with my four children. I did not have money and the children’s needs were increasing, they needed education, clothing and so on. I could not find a job in Armenia. My neighbor who was also looking for a job told me that many of her friends had found work in Turkey through bus operators. We went there together and were very happy when the agency told us that upon arrival in Turkey people would be meeting us at the office of the travel agency. When we arrived in Turkey we went directly to the office and found a man waiting for us. He proposed us a job at the canteen of a factory he owned. We agreed that he would pay us $200 a week for ten hours of work per day. We also rented a room in a three-room apartment that we shared with two other groups: one group of three young men, the other three women from Russia.
A week passed and when we asked for the salaries the man said that we had to work more and that he had to reconsider our salaries. We worked for a month and got no salary. We found another job in order to cover our accommodation. Every night we worked for four additional hours to get some more dollars to cover accommodation, food expenses and the delay in our salaries. At the end of the second month he told us that he didn’t need both of us anymore and that he was going to keep only me. At the beginning of the third month he gave me $100, but only when I asked him. I needed to send money to my son. He was serving in the army at the border of Armenia. My neighbors informed me that he was sick and that my children did not have money to buy medicines. I sent the money through a Turkish bus agency to Yerevan. Later when I asked for my pay he threatened me to report to immigration police about my expired visa. I was scared.
Everybody knew what ‘Yabanja Shube,’ the immigration detention centre, meant. One of my friends was there. Later in Yerevan she told me what had happened to her. A group of policemen raped, beat and humiliated her for four days in a row. She said that there were three more women at the immigration prison who shared the same fate. She was deported in an almost unconscious state. We agreed to everything, every kind of humiliation, but not to go to this place.
Every day when I came to work asking for the money the man requested additional favors from me: to serve in his family, to clean his house. I was doing all the work hoping that at last he would pay me. Once he told me that he would be very favorable to me if I agreed to have sexual relations with him. The next day he was more persistent. When I asked again about the money he said that he would immediately call the immigration police and imprison me for violation of the visa regime. I did not know what to do: I could not go back home because I had no documents and was afraid of the immigration police. So I had to accept his rules in order to get my passport. As soon as I received it I immediately bought a bus ticket to Yerevan. I heard from my roommates many similar stories. None of the migrant workers who lived in the apartment with me were satisfied with the working conditions, payment and attitude. None of them had a contract and none of the bosses wanted to legalize their work and stay.
I do not know what to do now. When I heard about jobs in Turkey it seemed to me the best solution. Now I am back. I have the same debts, the same problems and four children to take care of.
Narrative as told to the International Organization for Migration, 2000, in Yerevan, Albania.