The Guardian August 15, 2001


Macedonia: Liberation NATO style

Kosovo is never mentioned when they are offered a well-paid job in 
Italy, accompanied by legal-looking contracts for baby-sitters, cleaners 
and waitresses. They accept the offer, and the often dangerous journey 
starts for hundreds of women, some of them just girls, from their homes in 
eastern European countries.

But it usually ends in one of 33 bars throughout the UN-administrated 
Yugoslav province of Kosovo, where forced prostitution has been documented 
by international organisations.

The women come from Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania and 
Russia, a report prepared by the International Organisation for Migration 
(IOM), said.

Between February 2000 and May this year, the IOM has registered and helped 
some 160 women, whose testimonies were the basis for the organisation's 
report on growing prostitution in Kosovo, the agency spokeswoman Tamara 
Osorio said.

The IOM has code-named its campaign "You pay for a night, she pays with her 
life".

In January, the UN administration of the province published new regulations 
banning human trafficking and providing punishment for those aware of 
trafficking, and even those asking for sexual services. Jail sentences from 
five months to 15 years were laid down.

Regulations are barely enforced

From the notorious Miami bar on the road near the northern Kosovo town of 
Podujevo to luxury private houses in the Suny hill residential area in the 
capital Pristina, the women are forced into prostitution, most of them 
never seeing the money they have earned.

An IOM official estimated that more than 80 per cent of the women "never 
see the money," which is paid to the pimps, with prices ranging from 100 to 
500 German marks ($US45 to $US225)  a huge amount in a province where 
most of the population still relies on humanitarian assistance.

Since June 1999, when Belgrade troops left the province at the end of a 78-
day-long NATO bombing campaign on Yugoslavia, Kosovo has been administrated 
by the United Nations while more than 40,000 NATO-led peacekeepers provide 
security.

The official, who has worked with the women, said they were "bought from 
traffickers for between 1,500 to 5,000 German marks ($US675 to $US2,250) 
depending on their age, appearance or if they are virgins."

Girls were usually abused during their transit, and sometimes were "bought 
and sold three to six times until they reach Kosovo".

"Sometimes when, for example, a pander from Macedonia tries to sell the 
girl to a pimp in Kosovo, the price will depend on whether she has a 'good 
reputation'- and whether she has a way with clients", said the official, 
who asked not to be named.

The IOM report showed that 56 per ent of the 160 women the agency has 
registered were aged between 18 and 24, while 69 per cent had lived with 
their families in their home countries.

And more than 86 per cent of them said the reason for leaving home was "to 
find a better job", the report showed.

"When a woman finally comes to us, she is frightened, with no passport and 
no money, and her medical condition is usually bad", the source said.

Most of the women suffer from sexually-transmitted diseases, since they 
"are forced to have unprotected sex."

"Some of them had up to nine clients per night", the official said.

Their living conditions in Kosovo are "terrible", their testimonies showed.

Often they live in the bars where they work, sleeping on chairs or sharing 
a sofa between three of four of them.

Food is limited and they have no freedom of movement, often facing beatings 
and rape by their pimps, the report said.

* * *
Acknowledgement to AFP

Back to index page