Baghdad "Street Lawyers" Come to the Rescue of Orphans and Vulnerable Kids at Risk of Trafficking
The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) extends special recognition to the "Baghdad Street Lawyers” – a team of male and female staff attorneys and social workers – who have distinguished themselves in helping rescue children who are victims of trafficking.
The team, working with local authorities, helps investigate suspected cases of trafficking and then defends the children who are victims and assists in post-trafficking care. With so many orphans and children displaced by recent conflict, the risks are high. But donor support makes possible high impact legal interventions for some of the most vulnerable kids. Recent cases include the following stories.
When police arrested a woman begging on the streets with a 3-year old girl - Noor* - the woman claimed Noor was her daughter but had lost the girl's legal documents. The Baghdad Street Lawyers offered to help her recover them so she could get government support rather than begging, but the woman refused. That seemed odd, so the lawyers investigated and discovered that the woman was not related to the little girl. The woman was charged with kidnapping and confessed that Noor had been sold to her by kidnappers. Little Noor was given safe custody until police could locate her family.
Rumors were circulating that a local massage business was exploiting juvenile girls for prostitution, so a social worker with the Street Lawyers started monitoring the place. On his first visit, he found no girls but on a later visit, he discovered 4 girls (ages 16-17) working in prostitution. They notified authorities at the Directorate for Combating Human Trafficking who raided the center, arrested the staff, and closed the business. The Street Lawyers learned the girls' parents had actually sold them to the massage business which forced them into prostitution so they sued both the parents and the owner. Then they got approval for the girls to go live at a shelter for the homeless.
Hasan,* a teenage orphan, was looking for work to support his widowed mother. A man offered him a job but when he went to work, he learned the man wanted to buy his kidney instead. Hasan refused but the man persisted, tempting him with clothes and alcohol. One evening, after succumbing to the man's offers, Hasan was arrested for underage drinking. Again, the man offered to bail Hasan out in exchange for his kidney but Hasan refused. In retaliation, the man filed charges against Hasan, accusing him of fraud and stealing. The Street Lawyers were called in and helped investigate with recorded phone calls and video. When the facts were exposed, Hasan was released and the man charged with the crime of trafficking in human organs.
Zainab* (16) was arrested for prostitution but when the Street Lawyers took her case, they learned she and other girls had been lured to Baghdad with promises of jobs in a beauty salon. When they arrived, they were instead locked in an apartment and exploited for prostitution. The Street Lawyers defended the girls in court under Iraq's Anti-Trafficking Law, securing their release as victims of a crime. Because of the risk of honor killings if they went home, the judge sent the girls to a government homeless shelter.
Ali* and Ahmed*, 6 and 7 year old orphaned boys, were living with a poor uncle after their parents died. Another relative asked the uncle if Ali and Ahmed could come live with him, promising to take good care of them. Unfortunately, the relative trafficked the boys by forcing them to work begging on the streets. Police picked up the boys for begging and the Street Lawyers and social workers took the case, got the boys released, and returned them to the poor uncle who cares for them and keeps them off the streets.
Want to support these lawyers and social workers who do the hard work of protecting kids from trafficking? Do so at www.iraqichildren.org/donate. Please note that names of children (*) are changed to protect their identity. Pictures above illustrate the street kids, orphans, and displaced children who are so at risk of trafficking but do not depict actual children in the stories.