Born in Armenia, Alina was promised work in Greece but instead trafficked to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where an estimated 10,000 women from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, South and East Asia, Iraq, Iran, and Morocco are victims of sex trafficking. Women from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Uganda, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, the Philippines, Iraq, Iran, and Morocco are reportedly trafficked to the UAE. for commercial sexual exploitation. Some foreign women were reportedly recruited to work as secretaries or hotel workers by third country recruiters, but were coerced into prostitution or domestic servitude.
I met my boyfriend at my girlfriend’s house. He had been dating me for a month already when he told me he was going to marry me. My boyfriend told me we could earn some money for our wedding if we went to work in Greece at his friend’s company. We would stay for three months there to earn enough money and come back. I was extremely happy. I could not believe all that was happening to me. He took my passport and all necessary papers and said that he would take care of visa and travel arrangements. I was so happy and careless that I did not even ask to see the tickets or documents.
The day of departure came. We took the plane and instead of Greece we landed in Dubai. As I had not been abroad before I could not really understand where I was. I could only recognize the Arabic signs and people dressed in Arabic robes. When I asked why we landed in Dubai he said we would have to stay for a couple of days in Dubai, and then later we would go to Greece. He took me to a hotel and said that he was going to see his friend and would be back soon. Two hours later a man came to take me to another hotel saying that I was his property. I could not understand, I kept saying that it was a misunderstanding and that my friend would come soon. I had come to Dubai for another purpose. The man told me that my friend had sold me to him, that from now on he would have my documents and I had to do whatever he told me to. He said that the next day I had to move to another place and serve all the clients he would send to me. I was shocked by what was happening. The next day he came and took me to another hotel. He said that every day I had to give him $500, no matter how many clients I would serve. He was so violent. It was a continuous hell. Each day I served around 30 to 40 clients. I was not able to move or think. It went on for weeks. I was living between clients and tears. That was the rhythm of my life. I could not even realize what they wanted from me. The intensity of the process lasted for a couple of weeks. One day I got terribly sick. He left me alone and sent another Armenian woman to visit me. That day I understood that it was an organized enterprise and that there were many women from many countries who shared the same fate.
Meanwhile the pimp refused to give back my passport because of the debts he said he had incurred on account of me. I had to work and earn money if I wanted to go back home. Then he introduced me to another man telling me that he had sold me to him and that I had to take my passport from him. The next day I was beaten like for the first time. He was an extremely cruel man. He came every morning to pick up his money and beat me terribly. I had no right to speak or express my concern, everybody knew him well for his cruelty. I did not receive any money from him. He did not even buy food. It all depended on the client’s will. I was resold four times.
One of my clients was trying to kill me. If it were not for the women in the next room I would have been killed. In his frenzy the man was beating me. He squeezed my throat. Luckily enough there was a police raid in the hotel where I was working and I was taken together with other women to a police station and detained. My pimp did not do anything to release me from prison. I spent four months there. Though it was prison and the conditions were terrible, it was incomparable with what I had gone through before that. Nobody was cruel or rude to me there and I had to wait while my temporary documents from Armenia and the ticket for deportation were arranged. I came back without any money. All I had before remained with the pimp, I could not pick up anything. The most shameful thing happened at Yerevan airport. Everybody was treating me as if I were a prostitute, saying bad words. My life has changed since that time. Now you see me here in the street. I have become a real prostitute.
Narrative as told to the International Organization for Migration, 2000, in Yerevan, Albania.