The first article of this post is One night in Velesta by Preston Mendenhall; it can also be found at a site that addresses human trafficking.
VELESTA, Macedonia — It was midnight on a Friday and the carnival of horrors was open for business. Maks, a swaggering pimp in this drab town notable only for its endless strip of bordellos, appeared at the hotel room door with an adolescent girl in tow. "This one is my youngest," he said. With one arm draped around 17-year-old Lena's neck, Maks' free hand found its way up her white T-shirt. He pulled it up to reveal Lena's breasts. "Look at these things!" he boasted.
He treats this girl as an object, a piece of merchandise; she's a sex slave.
THIS IS NOT the kind of relationship that exists between most pimps and prostitutes. Maks literally owns Lena and many other girls who service dozens of men a night at his command. With civil war threatening to break out between Macedonian Slavs and ethnic Albanians, Maks was encouraged to see prospective new customers. Business was off, and the Greeks who vacationed at nearby Lake Okhrid had failed to turn up for the summer holidays. Nobody comes to Velesta for the scenery. Only two paved roads wind past rows of hastily constructed brick buildings with shops selling produce and Chinese kitsch. Velesta's main attraction is cheap sex — performed by beautiful girls kept under lock and key.
We checked into the Hotel Ekslusiv, where Velesta's sex slaves are forced to serve clients. Before we could even take our bags up to the sparsely furnished rooms, Meti came calling. Meti, another pimp and the owner of the Coca-Cola and Bela Dona bars just down the street, was eager to show us his girls. In his late 30s, with slicked-back hair, he is considered a kingpin in the Balkans sex trade.
Somebody can't wait to rent out his merchandise!
"You have to see my girls!" he said. "They are the best." We rode in Meti’s car to the Coca-Cola club, where he led us to the bar — a small room with seven tables blanketed in blue and red light. Meti disappeared in the back. We could hear him bellowing at the girls to get into their lingerie and come out front. Frantically, 11 women appeared, still putting on lipstick and eyeliner.
"You can have any one you want. Or all of them!" Meti said over music blasting on the stereo. Returning to the Hotel Ekslusiv, where we were left alone with the women, one — 19-year-old Olga — showed us a gruesome bite wound on her breast, inflicted by a client a month before. Throughout the night, women were herded in and out of the hotel by their pimps, who handed them over to waiting clients. The women who spoke with MSNBC.com said a night with a client was their only chance for a good meal, and they ordered hearty steaks from the hotel's ground-floor restaurant. "They only feed us macaroni," Olga said. Inside a room and away from their owners, the women spoke cautiously, turning up a television set to drown out our conversation in case the pimps were listening on the other side of the door. Speaking in Russian, Olga was able to tell her story without raising the suspicion of her "owner."
We met Olga in a previous post.
'MAMA' AND 'PAPA'
Olga told us that occasionally there were "good clients" among the thousands of men she was forced to service. I pressed her to explain what could be "good" about men who were raping her. "They are good if they don't beat you. They are good if they just have sex. Sometimes they bring me a present." Other women told how "owners" frequently treat one slave better than the others, showering her with gifts and not forcing as many clients upon her. To survive, the woman becomes the pimp’s lover — and rises up in the hierarchy of Velesta's brothels. The girls call the pimp "Papa" and his mistress "Mama." "Mama" still lives with all the girls, but she's "Papa's" spy, informing on anyone who plots to escape. Sometimes a mistress will enter into business with the pimps, who pay her handsomely to return home and recruit more girls with false promises of well-paid work in Europe.
"Mama" may feel it necessary to cut a deal with the devil to survive in Hell, but she's betraying her fellow victims, and has become a big part of the problem.
Twenty-four hours after working undercover in the brothels, we returned to the Hotel Ekslusiv — this time with 100 members of Macedonia's crack police squad. The Macedonian interior minister, Lubje Boskovski, launched a raid on Velesta after we told him the stories of the women held as sex slaves.
In a dozen armored personnel carriers, the police crashed through the doors of several clubs and the Hotel Ekslusiv, which should have been packed with clients on a weekend night. The pimps and their girls, tipped off by local police on their payrolls, were long gone. As the sun rose over the hills to the east, our Macedonian escorts began to get nervous. "We have to get out before sunup," the commander said, fearing the coming light would give the well-armed pimps an easy shot at his officers. Meti, the pimp the police had come looking for, had escaped. As the armored personnel carriers rumbled back to base, we remembered the words of Natasha, a young Moldovan once "owned" by Meti. "If I ever saw him again, I wouldn’t use words (to speak to him). I would use a gun."
While I do not condone vigilantism, if ever I saw Natasha holding Meti at gunpoint, I can't guarantee that I would be trying really hard to talk her into letting him live.
The second article of this post is A smuggler's paradise by David Binder; it can also be found at a site that addresses human trafficking.
The roads of impoverished southeastern Europe are paved with profits for anyone willing to smuggle cigarettes and liquor, kidnap women for sex slavery or move drugs from country to country.
That statement says a great deal. Read it again, and let it sink in, because in future posts we are going to come back to it from directions that may surprise you.
IT TAKES four hours to travel 60 miles of pitted and narrow roads from Albania's capital, Tirana, to the border with Montenegro. A small-time Albanian smuggler carrying contraband liquor hidden in a large compartment beneath the trunk of his car pauses at the frontier post of Han i Hotit to bribe a customs guard, then drives on 10 miles to a courtyard in Tuzi, Albania, where he deposits his goods.
"Everybody does it," he explains to his passenger. "Look over there at Shkoder Lake; there are dozens of boats carrying contraband." On a broad plain south of Tuzi lies a sprawling, ramshackle refugee camp next to the huge city dump. Traffickers in sex slaves hold girls kidnapped from as far away as Romania here before they are shipped across the Adriatic to Italy, according to the Albanian Interior Ministry.
"Everybody does it."
Never have I heard society's problems summed up so neatly.
No, everybody does not do it!
ALBANIA TO MONTENEGRO
In neighboring Montenegro, in the restaurant of Podgorica’s premier hotel, the Crna Gora, three South Americans are dining. "Narcotics," a waiter confides. "They've been here a long time." The Podgorica bus station is jam-packed at 9 p.m., and the bus to Bosnia is full. For a $25 bribe, the driver accommodates an extra traveler in a jump seat. The bus climbs the Black Mountains that give Montenegro its name on a route used for centuries by armies and bandits, and today, smugglers. It wends its way over precipitous passes under a full moon to yet another border, this one guarded by bored NATO soldiers in jeeps who are on the lookout for rebel attacks. They are not there to interdict contraband.
Is there anyone these girls can turn to?
A world away and farther east in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, a young man who serves as a middleman for several gangs who operate a forced prostitution ring tells of the rackets that provide traffickers with unsuspecting women.
"There are 'agencies' that sell 'dancers' to Albania, Japan, Israel, Greece, Turkey," the middleman says in a midnight interview in an apartment house. "Women sign a 'contract' with a so-called impresario, who has them photographed for an album — 1,000 of them per album. But it is only for prostitution. Then they disappear. They are sold for 2,500 Deutsche Marks."
"Mothers ask the cops to locate their daughters," the middleman continues. "But permission has already been given for their export by the state police. It costs $50,000 to open such an 'agency,' paid to cops." "Bucharest is headquarters for these operations, but there are branches in Moldova, Ukraine and Russia," the middleman says. "One has a reservoir of 4,200 girls. They also sell them by videocassette. You choose No. 7, No. 18. If they don't get picked, then they are sent to Oradea on the Hungarian border to a Turk. ... He works with a Hungarian on other side. They travel in big trucks. They use ex-soccer stars to smuggle women. Then the traffickers pay $500 per fake Hungarian passport."
The police are well-paid by the criminals if they do not interfere.
In many countries, police live in relative poverty and die violently if they do.
Here is a lesson for us: we need to support our police as long as they are honest -- even when they are issuing us a traffic ticket.
In future posts, we will look at what help is available to these girls, and what the authorities are doing about it all.
Meanwhile, our review of this series of articles is not yet done. Next we shall consider how the sex slave trade funds Islamic terrorists and their war of liberation from infidel rule of what they consider to be Islamic lands.