Friday, October 26, 2007

Iraqi refugees turn to prostitution

DAMASCUS, Syria - The Iraqi women jump onto the stage at the al-Rawabi club, their long black hair swinging, their young faces caked with makeup. Iraqi pop music booms out as they sway and dance under strobe lights.

Nearby, a woman nicknamed At'outa meets her paying dates — men who hand over $90 a night for companionship and sex.

This club in northwest Damascus represents one of the most troubling aspects of the Iraqi refugee crisis — Iraqi women and girls who are turning to prostitution to survive in countries that have taken them in but won't let them or their families work at most other jobs.

No reliable figures of Iraqi prostitutes exist, but an increase in the number of Iraqi women seen in recent months in clubs and on the streets of Damascus, Amman and other cities suggests the problem is growing as more Iraqis flee their country's violence.

Most of the Iraqi women at the al-Rawabi club appeared to be in their late teens and early 20s although some were older. While some danced on stage, about a half-dozen others strolled around the tables, smiling at men and inviting offers to sit down for a drink.

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