By day the road that leads from Damascus to the historic convent at Saidnaya is often choked with Christian and Muslim pilgrims hoping for one of the miracles attributed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary at the convent. But as any Damascene taxi driver can tell you, the Maraba section of this fabled pilgrim road is fast becoming better known for its brisk trade in Iraqi prostitutes.
Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months.
According to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria; the Syrian government puts the figure even higher.
Given the deteriorating economic situation of those refugees, a United Nations report found last year, many girls and women in “severe need” turn to prostitution, in secret or even with the knowledge or involvement of family members. In many cases, the report added, “the head of the family brings clients to the house.”
Our little foray into Iraq has displaced millions of people. It has killed hundreds of thousands. It has left women and girls with few options — and so they do what they have to do to survive. If they survive.
But the ever-so-moral Republicans are really helping Iraqis, right? The half-million people they’ve slaughtered, well… that’s collateral damage. A necessary sacrifice. The millions of refugees? The massive displaced populations? An unfortunate occurrence, but certainly worth it in the quest for democracy. The total lack of true democracy in Iraq, and the fact that the women who still live there have fewer rights and liberties now than they did under Saddam Hussein? Well, as long as they aren’t forced to wear the burka like those poor, oppressed women in Afghanistan, everything is a-ok. The Iraqi women and girls pushed into the Syrian sex trade? Clearly girls who just need a little Christian guidance, and certainly not the fault of our noble missions in the Middle East. I’m sure some faith-based organization will be dispatched soon enough.
But, sure, stay the course. What could go wrong?