UN warns of ‘horrific’ human trafficking

Yazidi women who fled the violence in Iraq take shelter in the city of Dohuk. The Yazidis are a small community which has been often targeted by militants in the region. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2019
0

UN warns of ‘horrific’ human trafficking

  • Militants in conflict zones using brutal tactics as weapons of war: UN report
  • The sexual enslavement of Yazidi women by Daesh in Iraq and Syria, have grabbed headlines and sparked global anger in recent years

NEW YORK: Human trafficking is becoming more “horrific” in conflict zones, where armed groups keep women as sex slaves and use child soldiers to spread fear, the UN said on Monday, warning of widespread impunity.

From girls forced to wed to boys made to cook and clean, militants are using trafficking as a tool to boost their control in areas where the rule of law is weak, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report.

The use of children as soldiers and suicide bombers in nations such as Colombia and Nigeria, and the sexual enslavement of Yazidi women by Daesh in Iraq and Syria, have grabbed headlines and sparked global anger in recent years.

Yet police and prosecutors are often not equipped to deal with the recruitment and exploitation of children by extremist groups — while global convictions of traffickers remain very low — according to the UNODC’s annual report on human trafficking.

“Trafficking is found in connection with most armed conflicts,” said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UNODC. “In situations characterized by violence, brutality and coercion, traffickers can operate with even greater impunity.”

“Child soldiers, forced labor, sexual slavery — human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters,” he said in a statement.

Fedotov said the award of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Nadia Murad — a former Daesh sex slave turned Yazidi activist and UN ambassador — was an “important recognition” and urged the world to stop the use of rape as a weapon of war.

The UNODC’s report said that while countries are finding more victims — mostly women trafficked for sex — and convicting more traffickers, the total number of convictions remained very low in many nations — especially in Africa and the Middle East.

“In some countries ... there appears to be hardly any risk for traffickers to face justice,” the report said.

About 40 million people worldwide are living as slaves — trapped in forced labor or forced marriages — according to a landmark estimate by Australian rights group the Walk Free Foundation and the UN International Labour Organization (ILO).

Yet campaigners say more and better data is needed to track progress in pursuit of a UN target of ending modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030 as many victims around the world — including child soldiers — are going uncounted.

“Sound information and a solid base of evidence for our policies are two of the most important things to fight this disgusting crime in the most efficient way possible,” Karin Kneissl, Austria’s foreign minister, said at the report launch.

“We simply need to know what it actually is we are dealing with,” she added.


Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

Updated 12 min 31 sec ago
0

Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

  • Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias
  • Among these are the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen

JEDDAH: Iran needs to dismantle its proxies and end its interventions in Arab affairs before seeking to normalize relations with its Gulf neighbors, a political expert told Arab News on Sunday.

“The Gulf countries have been calling for normal relations with their neighbors for years, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears on the Iranian side,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, said.

Accusing Tehran of “playing games,” Al-Shehri described Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s suggestion that Iran wanted to improve relations with its Gulf neighbors as worthless “as long as it continues meddling in the affairs of other countries, and fails to halt its evil militias from sabotaging and destabilizing regional security.”

Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias, which indirectly supports, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. 

Zarif, who is on a two-day visit to Iraq, told a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al-Hakim that Iran wants to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

However, Al-Shehri said that Tehran needs to address three key issues — its nuclear program; its terrorist militias, which have been spreading chaos in the Gulf region and beyond; and its ballistic missile program — before making any such proposals.

“The question is, would Iran be ready to give up all three files? If they want their neighbors to accept them and normalize relations with them, they have to be honest and stop playing games,” he said.

Al-Shehri described Zarif’s regional tour as an attempt to rally support and send a false message that Iran has friends and allies who would stand by them in their crisis with the US.

“Where were these countries when Iran’s terrorist proxies in Yemen, the Houthi militias, launched missiles and drones attacking the holiest Islamic site in Makkah and other Saudi facilities?” Al-Shehri asked.

Zarif said Iran will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed.

“We will defend (ourselves) against any war efforts, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said.

Strains have increased between Iran and the US following this month’s sabotage attack on oil tankers in the Gulf. Washington and other regional allies have concluded that Iran is most likely behind the attacks. 

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the US has sent an aircraft carrier and extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns over the risk of conflict in the volatile region.