Sunday, 8 July 2007

Allah Doesn't Smile On Street Walking

Here is a piece I wrote based on research and a primary interview with a genuine Iraqi prostitute. It is written from her perspective. It was published in Vice's March 2007 Iraq Issue.

Allah doesn’t smile on street walking. Under the Baathist regime being a prostitute was a seriously risky business. If caught soliciting or even being suspected of plying your trade a hooker would face jail at best with death commonly used as a demonstrative tool. In 2000 Saddam ordered the public beheading of 200 women just in case anyone was getting mixed signals on the whole paying for sex thing.

A combination of the general chaos and lawlessness Iraq has been thrown into combined with what has essentialy become a US judicial system espousing Western values the worst a prostitute can expect in 2007 is a slap on the wrist and maximum of 48 hours detention. With a high percentage of the Iraqi male population decimated by continuing conflict in many families the onus to provide has fallen upon women. If you can earn $5 a day sweeping up in a hairdressers that might be blown up at any minute or you can earn that in minutes on the job the decision is easily made for many of these girls.

The influx of American contractors and Military officials has bought the cash to allow scenes like the above in Karada Street to become a regular fixture of the visiting Westerners Baghdad experience. The Lebanese businessmen who run the compound started out as small time hustlers selling Viagra in Beirut but their entrepreneurial streak has led them east through Afgahnistan into Iraq. They have created a secure escape from the reality they continue to exploit filled with fine wines, Cohibas, swimming pools and whores. Shit you half expect Hugh to pop up at any minute.

The girls lure the western money in and it is swiftly relieved from uniformed pockets by obliging, nubile Iraqi girls as young as 14 who are more than happy to shut up, bend over and occasionally laugh sweetly. Repeat business is common and girls can earn anything up to $2,500 a month. While the growing practice is condemned by resurgent Islamic clerical elements it shows no sign of abating and is sure keeping these Lebanese fellas in funny smelling aftershave for the foreseeable future.

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