Archive for February, 2005
See also: Desert Nights – 1
Armenians in the Dubai sex trade
Ask any taxi-driver in Dubai where to find girls, and you’ll get the same answer-Cyclone. That’s where Marietta Musayelyan, a notorious madam from Etchmiadzin, sends her girls at night. Cyclone, the most popular nightclub in Dubai , was owned by Indians a year ago, but today, according to a local who preferred to remain anonymous, it belongs to two high-ranking officials from Dubai ‘s Immigration Service and Police Department. It’s hard to verify allegations like that in Dubai . In fact, it’s hard to get any information at all from government agencies in the United Arab Emirates , especially for foreign journalists.
When the club closes at 3 a.m., hundreds of men and women pour into the street, and the choosing and bargaining begin. The air is thick with the delights of the sex trade and the English words “How much? How much?” Clients mostly want to know the price of an hour, or a night. Girls advertise their skills-different kinds of sex, twosomes, threesomes. A black woman points to her bottom and says to my colleague, Ara, “Look, it’s great for sex.” A Chinese woman takes my hand and says she can give me a massage that will make me feel good. The johns are all different ages, from every walk of life. Sometimes expensive cars drive up, and selections are made from inside them. It’s like an oriental bazaar, but the only things for sale are women’s bodies, with men and women drunkenly haggling over the price.
O. G. was one of Marietta’s girls, known at Cyclone by the name Baby. When Ara asked her in English the price for one night Baby giggled and said it was 1,000 drahms ($300), and one hour was 500 drahms. That was the sum total of her English.
O. G. turned 18 in December 2003. She was in Yerevan then, seven months pregnant. A month later, via Moscow, she was in Dubai . She had been sold to Marietta in Yerevan and delivered to Moscow by Sirushik and Nelli, who were paid $500.
“They kept seven of us in a third-floor apartment in a tall building in Moscow,” 19-year-old Suzy from Yerevan said. “We were met at the airport by a tall guy named Armen. When he took us to that apartment, another guy came. They called him Sevo. He was from Gavar. They took our passports, and six days later, they took us to Dubai with false Russian passports. Our dates of birth had been changed. Marietta came to the airport with a man. Later we found out his name – Armen Ghazaryan. They took us to an apartment, took away our passports, and we started working.”
“The doctor gave O.G. an injection and she had a miscarriage,” explained A. from Yerevan, a friend of O.G.’s. “When I asked her about it, she started to cry. She couldn’t remember anything. When the baby came out she fainted. She said she didn’t remember anything. O.G. went kind of crazy. She wasn’t like that before.”
We first found out about O.G. three years ago, when we were working on an article about students at the Vardashen Special Educational Complex in Yerevan , an institution for troubled children. O.G. and her sister had ended up there because their parents had divorced and then each remarried, leaving the girls in the care of their grandparents, pensioners who could not provide for them. Some time later, O.G. fell into a recruiter’s net.
These days, O.G. sends $100 a month to her 17-year-old sister, who finds shelter in Yerevan wherever she can. Her sister got pregnant young, too, and has a baby now.
“We stayed at that apartment for two months,” another one of Marietta ‘s girls said. “Then we moved to another place. Marietta said that the police had found out our address and we had to move. We were living near the Sheraton Hotel when Marietta left us and disappeared, with our passports, jewelry, and clothes.” The girl spent two months in jail after Marietta disappeared.
When she picks her girls, Marietta makes sure that they aren’t from ordinary families; they don’t have parents who will protect them. Her girls are orphans, or from very poor, socially insecure families. One girl, Eva Tovmasyan, is from the orphanage in Gavar. She stays with different Armenian girls in Dubai; she has no documents, and will end up in a police station before long.
Marietta Musayelyan herself was arrested by the Dubai police in 2000, and expelled from the UAE. She served a short sentence in Armenia, and then went back to business, first at home, and then in Dubai.
Last September, Marietta and her friend Armen took passports, jewelry, clothes, and money from the seven girls who were working for them at the time and left Dubai for Oman . From there they went to Russia , then to Armenia, where they are currently under arrest. After Marietta disappeared, three of her girls were taken to jail. O.G. was one of them. Six months pregnant, she miscarried in jail. Two of Marietta’s girls are still in prison; the others are working in Dubai.
Marietta has been wanted by Interpol since 2003. It would be naïve to think that the United Arab Emirates Police or the local Interpol office didn’t know that Marietta Musayelyan was in Dubai. Today we know the whereabouts of six Armenian women who are being sought by Interpol-we managed to find them in three visits to Dubai within one year. It would only take Dubai law enforcement a few days to find them and send them back to Armenia. They just don’t want to.
Then why did Marietta Musayelyan and her boyfriend-bodyguard Armen Ghazaryan come back? A year ago Marietta ‘s son was arrested for bringing drugs to the UAE from Iran. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, which he is now serving. It is possible that Marietta is trying to somehow transfer her son to Armenia to serve his sentence here. Or perhaps that she’s trying to get her name off Interpol. All she’ll have to do is spend a couple of months in jail, just like last time. Armenian prosecutors only seek mild sentences for human trafficking.
Although the Criminal Code of Armenia has been amended to include an article (132) on trafficking, no one seems to be eager to implement it in Armenia yet. Even the most notorious madam, Nano, nicknamed “The Mother Pimp”, was never charged with trafficking. In 2004 Nano was sentenced to two years in prison (See also:“Mother pimp” gets two years in prison), which means that she’ll be out soon, and back selling Armenian women in various Arab countries. The same fate awaits Marietta, whose case is to be heard soon.
Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Hetq has been investigating the problem of trafficking in Armenian women for more than a year now, trying to find out how these women get into the United Arab Emirates, what forces them to take this path and engage in prostitution, who runs this business in Armenia and the UAE and why they are not punished, and what steps law enforcement agencies in Armenia and the United Arab Emirates have taken to stop human trafficking. Our investigative team will provide some answers to these questions in a series of articles and in a video film entitled Desert Nights. The first article appears below.
A Pakistani cab driver answered our questions. Cab drivers are a great source of information. They know a lot. They know where the women stand. They even know their nationality. They can tell you where to find Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Armenian women or girls less than 18 years old.
They can recommend the best nightclubs. Cab drivers in Dubai -mainly Pakistanis and Indians-can tell you about the sheikh and his family, their palaces and businesses.
We were in a residential district in Dubai where we had been told the cheapest Armenian prostitutes could be found. There were Chinese, Russian, Uzbek, and Armenian women waiting for clients in the doorways of the buildings. Men were making their choices, haggling, and when an agreement was reached, going upstairs into apartment-brothels. Of course, the authorities and the police in Dubai know that there are hundreds of these apartments here.
The clientele of these inexpensive prostitutes are Pakistanis, Iranians, Indians, and Arabs from neighboring countries who work in Dubai . They spend only five, ten, or fifteen minutes in the rooms, and pay $10, $15, or $20 maximum. A prostitute can have dozens of clients each day.
Most of the women working here are unkempt, semi-literate, crude.
We got out of the cab and, pretending to be tourists, struck up a conversation with three of them.
“Are you Armenian?” we asked.
“What are you doing here?”
“What should we be doing? We’re wandering around like stray dogs.”
We asked them to go upstairs to talk. They didn’t know it, but we were filming everything for our documentary. We will not show their faces or print their pictures since many of them are married and have children. Most of their families are unaware that they are working as prostitutes in Dubai.
Only one of the six women in the apartment was from Yerevan . The others were from small towns and villages in Armenia.
We introduced ourselves as Armenians from the United States visiting Dubai . We said two of us were originally from Armenia , and the third was Armenian-American by birth.
The street women cannot abandon their places on the street for long. Their “boss”, as one of them put it, drives by in a cab five or six times a day to see whether they are in their spots or not. A woman named Anush supervises the six Armenian women in this apartment.
“How many clients do you have a day?” we asked.
“Who knows?” Anush said.
“Isn’t it dangerous?”
“No, we know the men who come here.”
“Are there many women from Armenia in Dubai?”
“All of Armenia is here,” Nara from Jermuk replied.
After a while we showed them a picture of a 17-year-old girl, saying that she was a friend of ours and we were looking for her.
Nara told us, “The deal is, no one can force you. If you want to, you do this work. If you don’t, you go to the police station and tell them. I’ve been in Dubai for six years now. If you think we came here because of financial problems, you’re wrong.”
“Then why did you come?” we asked.
“I had to come, so I came. Now I have everything – money, gold, apartments in Dubai and Yerevan. No one can say anything to me.”
Then the women told us how we could find our friend from the picture, which discotheques and nightclubs we should look for her in.
Four of the women said they had come to Dubai voluntarily. The other two had been tricked into coming. These two didn’t say a word throughout our entire conversation. And as we spoke, prostitutes and their clients were coming and going in other rooms of the apartment. Our presence didn’t disturb them at all.
As we were saying goodbye, the to silent women told us how they had been deceived into coming to Dubai . “I was told that I was going to Bulgaria to work in a flower shop,” one of them, who was from Masis, told us. “Then they brought me here from Moscow . I’m married and I have two children. I’ve been here for a year now and my husband thinks I’m in Bulgaria . I send money home. Sometimes I talk to my kids on the phone. What can I do? I don’t know what’s going to happen in the end.”
Outside, they told us to get into a cab quickly, or the police might arrest them.
We drove off for a meeting with Marietta , the most famous madam in Dubai today.
Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Dubai, July 2004