03/29/2008, 00.00
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Damascus, young girls the victims of prostitution - almost all of them Iraqis

The trap of prostitution is ensnaring more and more young girls, who are without work and have relatives depending on them, ready to sell themselves to scrape together a little money. Most of them are minors, and many are refugees from Iraq.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Children's faces hidden behind makeup, and scantily clad bodies ready to be sold for a handful of dollars.  Many are under the age of 16, and 95 percent come for Iraq.  They are girls who have fled from the war, and have been driven into the hands of greedy club owners who exploit their desperation to make money.

Prostitution is a spreading problem in Syria, and the country is becoming a well-known destination for sexual tourism.  The 'clients' come from rich Gulf countries - even from orthodox Saudi Arabia - and pay from 300 to 500 dollars a night for the child prostitutes, who receive only 50 dollars.  Unemployed and with relatives depending on them, the young Iraqi girls are easy prey. Zahara, a 17-year-old war refugee, in an interview published by AINA, says: "I don`t like it, but what can I do? I hope things get better in Iraq, because I miss it. I want to go back".

Despite the fact that it is a widespread phenomenon, prostitution remains a taboo subject in Arab states, and an act punishable by death.  In Muslim countries, in fact, the young prostitutes sometimes end up being the victims of honour crimes.  A girl who is forced to sell her body is an injury for the country, but, according to the patriarchal culture, also for the family to which she belongs, because the dishonour is such that it 'infects' the other daughters, preventing them from getting married.

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