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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                               


Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided over 90% of foreign exchange earnings. Oil exports are around levels seen before Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The International Compact with Iraq was established in May 2007 to integrate Iraq into the regional and global economy, and the Iraqi government is seeking to pass laws to strengthen its economy. This legislation includes a hydrocarbon law to establish a modern legal framework to allow Iraq to develop its resources and a revenue sharing law to equitably divide oil revenues within the nation, although both are still under contentious political negotiation.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Iraq

Iraq is both a source and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. Iraqi women and girls, some as young as 11 years old, are trafficked within the country and abroad to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Turkey, Iran, and possibly Yemen, for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households in these countries. Some victims are sexually exploited in Iraq before being sold to traffickers who take them abroad. In some cases, women are lured into sexual exploitation through false promises of work. The more prevalent means of becoming a victim is through sale or forced marriage. Family members have trafficked girls and women to escape desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or resolve disputes between families. Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the traditional institution of temporary marriages (muta’a).. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009    Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Iraq.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Focus on Boys Trapped in Commercial Sex Trade

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, August 8, 2005

[accessed 8 March 2015]

A 16-year-old boy has started a desperate new life since being forced into the sex trade in Baghdad, joining a growing number of adolescents soliciting in Iraq under the threat of street gangs or the force of poverty.  "Every day I cry at night," Feiraz said. "I'm a homosexual and was forced to work as a prostitute because one of the people I had sex with took pictures of me in bed and said that, if I didn't work for him, he was going to send the pictures to my family."  "My life is a disaster today. I could be killed by my family to restore their honour," he said, explaining that homosexuality was totally unacceptable in Iraq due to religious beliefs.

Iraq's Unspeakable Crime: Mothers Pimping Daughters

Rania Abouzeid, Baghdad, Time/World, Mar. 07, 2009,8599,1883696,00.html?xid=newsletter-weekly

[accessed 13 February 2011],8599,1883696,00.html

[accessed 29 April 2020]

That underworld is a place where nefarious female pimps hold sway, where impoverished mothers sell their teenage daughters into a sex market that believes females who reach the age of 20 are too old to fetch a good price. The youngest victims, some just 11 and 12, are sold for as much as $30,000, others for as little as $2,000. "The buying and selling of girls in Iraq, it's like the trade in cattle," Hinda says. "I've seen mothers haggle with agents over the price of their daughters." (See pictures of Iraq since the fall of Saddam.)

The trafficking routes are both local and international, most often to Syria, Jordan and the Gulf (primarily the United Arab Emirates). The victims are trafficked illegally on forged passports, or "legally" through forced marriages. A married female, even one as young as 14, raises few suspicions if she's travelling with her "husband." The girls are then divorced upon arrival and put to work. (See Iraq's return to "normalcy".)


*** ARCHIVES ***

Human trafficking has prospered in Iraq since end of Saddam era

Middle East Monitor MEMO, 5 August 2019

[accessed 6 August 2019]

A new report has revealed that human trafficking in Iraq has prospered since the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, reported on Sunday. The report was prepared by the Iraqi Observatory for Victims of Human Trafficking (IOVHT).

According to the independent IOVHT, at least 27 human trafficking networks have been documented, in addition to six related kinds of violations in Baghdad and other Iraqi governorates. The report found that most of the human trafficking networks regard Iraqi Kurdistan as a safe haven for their crimes. It also showed that the networks are using modern techniques to hunt their victims, including social media, concentrating on prostitution, the harvesting of human body parts and begging.

They escaped ISIS. Then they got sucked into Baghdad's sex trafficking underworld

Arwa Damon, Ghazi Balkiz, Brice Laine & Aqeel NajmBaghdad, CNN, 3 jULY 2019

[accessed 8 July 2019]

When they arrived in a rundown Baghdad neighborhood, notorious for its drug gangs, the unthinkable happened. The old man, who her friend had told her was a parliamentarian, greeted them in a dilapidated building. "He said to me, 'You are mine now, you are mine now.'" He was the head of a sex trafficking gang.

Nadia was shocked. The friend she had trusted all along -- with her money and with her fears -- had sold her into sexual slavery.

"I started fighting ... I started hitting them. They both beat me hard," she said. She says they sedated her with an injection and everything went black.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Iraq

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 10 June 2021]


Employers subjected foreign migrant workers–particularly construction workers, security guards, cleaners, repair persons, and domestic workers–to forced labor; confiscation of passports, cellphones, ATM cards, and other travel and identity documents; restrictions on movement and communications; physical abuse, sexual harassment, and rape; withholding of wages; and forced overtime. There were cases of employers stopping payment on contracts and preventing foreign employees from leaving the work site.

Employers subjected women to involuntary domestic service through forced marriages and the threat of divorce, and women who fled such marriages or whose husbands divorced them were vulnerable to social stigma and increased vulnerability to further forced labor. Female IDPs, single women, and widows were particularly vulnerable to economic exploitation and discriminatory employment conditions.


Data on child labor was limited, particularly with regard to the worst forms of child labor, which further limited enforcement of existing legal protections. Child labor, including in its worst forms, occurred throughout the country. This included forced begging and commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, according to international NGOs

The KRG Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs estimated several hundred children worked in the IKR, often as street vendors or beggars, making them particularly vulnerable to abuse. The ministry operated a 24-hour hotline for reporting labor abuses, including child labor, that received approximately 200 calls per month.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 29 April 2020]


After the military defeat of IS, many Yazidi women who had been forced into sex slavery remained missing. Exploitation of children, including through forced begging and the recruitment of child soldiers by some militias, is a chronic problem. Foreign migrant workers frequently work long hours for low pay, and they are vulnerable to forced labor. Human trafficking is also a problem, and IDPs are particularly vulnerable. Thus far, the government’s efforts to enforce trafficking laws have been inadequate.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 18 April 2019]

[accessed 29 April 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 537]

The UN reported that Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) units recruited and used children in militia activities and manning checkpoints or providing support at checkpoints. (1; 2) A 2016 law had formalized the status of the Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC), an umbrella organization for the PMF, within the Iraqi state structure. In early 2018, the Prime Minister issued an order further incorporating the PMC into the Iraqi defense forces. (30) Despite the formal incorporation of the PMF into the security services, the government struggled to assert control over all PMF units. (31) Research did not find evidence that the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police used children in armed conflict. (32)

ISIS recruited children, including girls, and used them in combat operations, for example as suicide bombers and human shields. (1; 2) ISIS also continued to use children in its propaganda materials online. (2) Armed groups, including Sunni tribal forces, Yezidi Resistance Forces, Yezidi Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which were outside the Iraqi Government’s control and were engaged in combat against ISIS, also recruited and used children. (1; 2) In Kirkuk, a militia group also provided a voluntary, 3-month training for 100 Shia Turkmen boys ages 15 and older on how to participate in combat. (31)

ISIS fighters subjected girls, primarily from the Yezidi community but also from other ethnic and religious groups, to sexual slavery, forced marriages, or forced domestic work in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. (33; 34; 35; 3; 4; 5; 31) Throughout the country, some girls were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation through temporary marriages. (3) This practice involves a dowry paid to the girl’s family and an agreement to dissolve the marriage after a predetermined length of time. (36) ISIS sold boys who they considered too young or too weak to engage in armed conflict into forced domestic work. (26; 27) Limited evidence points to trafficking of girls from Iran into the Iraqi Kurdistan Region for commercial sexual exploitation. Some officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were involved in the trafficking of Syrian refugee girls for commercial sexual exploitation. (37; 3) Child laborers were also exposed to sexual violence and abuse. (13).

‘I want a blue-eyed Yazidi': Teen describes IS slave market

Michel Moutot, AFP, 2 September 2015

[accessed 2 Sept 2015]

Kidnapped, beaten, sold and raped: the Islamic State group is running an international market in Iraq where Christian and Yazidi women are sold as sexual slaves, a teenager who escaped told AFP Tuesday.

Jinan, 18, a Yazidi, was captured in early 2014 and held by Islamic State jihadists for three months before she managed to flee, she said on a visit to Paris ahead of the publication Friday of a book about her ordeal.

Seized as Islamic State fighters swept through northern regions inhabited by the Yazidi religious minority, Jinan was moved around between several locations before being bought by two men, a former policeman and an imam.

Once she was sold, Jinan’s days were punctuated by men’s visits to the house where she was imprisoned with other women.

UN urged to investigate ISIS's bloody trade in human organs after Iraqi ambassador reveals doctors are being executed for not harvesting body parts

John Hall for MailOnline, The Daily Mail, 18 February 2015

[accessed 18 February 2015]

The al-Monitor report also claims the terror organisation has even set up a specialist organ-smuggling division whose sole responsibility is to sell human hearts, livers and kidneys on the lucrative international black market.

'[Al-Mosuli] said that lately he noticed unusual movement within medical facilities in Mosul Arab and foreign surgeons were hired, but prohibited from mixing with local doctors,' the report's author wrote. 'Information then leaked about organ selling.'

The report went on: 'Surgeries take place within a hospital and organs are quickly transported through networks specialized in trafficking human organs. Mosuli said that the organs come from fallen fighters who were quickly transported to the hospital, injured people who were abandoned or individuals who were kidnapped.'

Most of the organs are then smuggled out of Syria and Iraq into neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia or Turkey where criminal gangs sell them on to shady buyers across the globe, the Assyrian International News Agency reported.

U.S. Investigates Firm Building Embassy in Iraq

Yochi J. Dreazen, The Wall Street Journal/Business, Washington DC, June 7, 2007

[accessed 12 July 2013]

Federal prosecutors are investigating the Kuwaiti company building the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, probing allegations that foreign employees were brought to work on the massive project against their will and prevented from leaving the country.

The Department of Justice launched the probe of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. after former employees alleged that workers at the company were told they were being sent to Dubai, only to wind up in Iraq instead, people familiar with the matter said. According to the allegations, First Kuwaiti confiscated the workers' passports, so they were unable to depart Baghdad.

Abuses Found in Hiring at Iraq Bases

Cam Simpson, The Baltimore Sun (Maryland), April 24, 2006

[accessed 4 September 2014]

Gen. George W. Casey Jr. ordered that contractors be required by May 1 to return passports that have been illegally confiscated from laborers on U.S. bases after determining that such practices violated U.S. laws against trafficking for forced or coerced labor. Human brokers and subcontractors from South Asia to the Middle East have worked together to import thousands of laborers into Iraq from impoverished countries.

Cry, the Beloved Iraqi Women

Lorraine, Daily Kos, Feb 17, 2005

[accessed 27 January 2016]

"Freedom" has become a cruel joke.  Saddam's regime was brutal, but it was secular, and women in Iraq enjoyed a degree of freedom that their sisters in other Arab countries are denied.  That has changed since the invasion.

Freedom or Theocracy?: Constitutionalism in Afghanistan and Iraq

Hannibal Travis, Volume 3, Northwestern University Journal Of International Human Rights, April 8, 2005

[accessed 12 July 2013]

¶ 113  Women suffered along with many other Iraqis as a result of the war to oust Saddam.  A breakdown of law and order after the fall of Iraq's government resulted in the rapes of hundreds of Iraqi women.  Violent deaths of men, women and children tripled.  Young girls are being sold into slavery.  Many women are too afraid even to leave their homes, let alone participate actively in developing a secular government that respects the equal rights of its citizens.

IRAQ: Focus on child labour

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Baghdad, 9 May 2005

[accessed 9 March 2015]

Eleven-year-old Mahmoud al-Obaidi walks seven km every morning to get to work at a carpentry factory in Baghdad so he can save his bus fares.  Al-Obaidi is the only male in his family of four, as his father disappeared five years ago and he works to support his family. On average he spends nearly 10 hours a day in the factory earning a living.  "I didn't have a choice. Work was the only option. I cannot deny that I would like to be at a school, learning like other children. But I know the responsibility that I have to carry," al-Obaidi told IRIN, as he walked to work.  He boy is only one of thousands of Iraqi children forced by poverty to work at an early age.

More than a million youngsters work often enduring hazardous conditions, as well as being vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence, according to a report released at the end of 2004. The report was based on a nationwide survey in which 19,610 Iraqis participated.

Probe into Iraq trafficking claims

Elise Labott, CNN State Department Producer, Washington DC, May 5, 2004

[accessed 13 February 2011]

Indian press reports said that Indian nationals in Jordan and Kuwait were recruited for jobs in U.S. military camps in Iraq as cooks, butchers, laundry workers and handymen.  Some of the Indians charge they signed up through Indian employment companies to work in Kuwait, but ended up in Iraq working for low pay and were refused permission to leave the country.

Forced Labor added to charges of U.S. crimes in Iraq

The NewStandard, May 5, 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 6 September 2011]

Four Muslim Indian citizens say they and about 20 others were abducted by US military personnel in Kuwait and forced to engage in menial labor for troops at an unspecified base in Iraq. They said they were paid $200 a month while forcibly held, enduring countless assaults on the base by Iraqi insurgents in addition to forced labor. After months of captivity, sixteen of the men managed to escape and make their way home to India. One of the men said he was beaten by American personnel when he demanded to be allowed to leave the base. The men said soldiers told them the military had paid a Kuwaiti firm $1000 a head for the laborers and, thus, they would not be allowed to leave.

Indians say they were held against their will in Iraq by U.S. Army to do menial labor

V.M. Thomas, Associated Press AP, COCHIN India, 5/5/2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 6 September 2011]

Faisal said the four men paid $1,750 each to a travel agent, who arranged the Kuwait job through a recruiting agency in Bombay. The Indians declined to identify the recruiting agency, saying they have been threatened since their return.   Many poor, unemployed Indians gather up their life savings or borrow large sums to try to secure jobs in Gulf countries. Some 3.5 million Indians are employed in the Gulf.   India has been a major supplier of manpower for low-level jobs with the U.S. military forces in Kuwait and Iraq. Travel agencies have recruited military support staff, such as chefs, kitchen workers, accountants and drivers for U.S. military forces.

Combating Prostitution, Human Trafficking In Iraq

Press Release: Commission On Security And Coperation In Europe, 30 May 2003

[accessed 13 February 2011]

Eight Members of the United States Helsinki Commission have written to Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage requesting information about State Department efforts to ensure that U.S. contractors do not participate in prostitution or human trafficking-related activities in Iraq or elsewhere, citing similar problems in the OSCE region.  The letter inquires about the Administration’s efforts to fight the emergence of prostitution and human trafficking industries in post-conflict Iraq spurred by an influx of international personnel from the United States and other countries.

UNICEF wary of post-war child trafficking in Iraq

UNICEF Press Centre, New York, 13 June 2003

[accessed 13 February 2011]

[accessed 29 April 2020]

In the chaos of the post-war environment, in Iraq normal community networks that protect children are not fully functioning. That can leave children exposed to exploitation. Hundreds of thousands of children are trafficked each year around the world for brutal child labour and sexual abuse.

While well-meaning people around the world might think that international adoption is a legitimate way to help some of these children quickly, UNICEF is concerned that too often unscrupulous child traffickers will try exploiting the chaos and trying to pass themselves off as legitimate agents of good.htsc

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 9 October 1998

[accessed 13 February 2011]

[26] The Committee notes with concern that the economic exploitation of children has increased dramatically in the past few years and that an increasing number of children are leaving school, sometimes at an early age, to work to support themselves and their families. In this regard, the Committee is also concerned about the existing gap between the age at which compulsory education ends (12 years old) and the minimum legal age for access to employment (15 years old). The Committee recommends that research be carried out on the situation with regard to child labor in the State party, including the involvement of children in hazardous work, to identify the causes and the extent of the problem.

Human Rights Overview by Human Rights Watch – Defending Human Rights Worldwide

[accessed 13 February 2011]


Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 29 April 2020]


IS’s market for Yazidi slaves, both women and children, continued to operate for much of 2017. Other forms of human trafficking and exploitation remained problems elsewhere in Iraq, with vulnerable populations including displaced people, foreign migrant workers, children engaged in forced begging, and child soldiers recruited by IS and certain militias.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 9 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Detection of trafficking was extremely difficult due to lack of information because of the security situation, existing societal controls of women, and the closed-tribal culture. There were reports of girls and women trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation.  Five European countries successfully stymied a criminal network trafficking Iraqi citizens to Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom, reportedly for commercial sexual exploitation within the European Union.  The MOI has responsibility for trafficking-related issues, but the demands of the security situation relegated trafficking to a lesser priority. Trafficking crimes were not specifically enumerated in MOI statistics on criminal activity. There were no government sources of information; the MOI did not track these crimes or include them in the police training curriculum or conduct trafficking-related investigations.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 13 February 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Anti-government militias, such as Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, exploit children as young as ten years old as child soldiers.

CHILD LABOR LAWS AND ENFORCEMENT - The Criminal Code, which predates the Iraqi conflict but remains in effect, prohibits any form of compulsory or forced labor.  Order 89 prohibits the worst forms of child labor, which it defines as all forms of slavery, debt bondage, forced labor, trafficking of children, compulsory use of children in armed conflict, child prostitution, illicit activity, including drug trafficking and work likely to harm the health, safety or morals, among others

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