The Promise of a Fairy Tale Life Draws Women to Dubai

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The Promise of a Fairy Tale Life Draws Women to Dubai

“I went to Dubai to work as a waitress. They promised me a high salary, and I really needed the money. I have four children, and I've been divorced for four years now. When I arrived in Dubai, I understood that I had been tricked. They beat me, forced me to go out on the street and find clients. I told them that I wouldn't a prostitute and that they should send me back home. They replied that they had spent $1,500 to get me to Dubai, and I couldn't go back to Armenia until I had paid that money back,” said 36 year old Anahit.

The trial against 40-year-old ex policeman Alik Gasparyan, who had been charged with human trafficking, in violation of Article 123 of the Armenian Criminal Code, began on September 23 2005.

In January 2003, Alik Gasparyan was renting Julietta Avetisyan's apartment on Charents Street. He didn't tell Julietta his real profession or what he was doing in the apartment. Instead, he once mentioned that he owned a luxurious restaurant in Dubai and was looking for good-looking waitresses. Julietta remembered her friend Anahit, who she had worked with in a restaurant in Martuni in 2002. Anahit had been a waitress, Julietta a dishwasher.

Julietta called Anahit and told her that she had found her a good job. Anahit met Alik, and they discussed the details in Julietta's apartment. Alik told Julietta that she could go to Dubai, and work as a dishwasher in his restaurant. Julietta enthusiastically agreed.

Alik took Anahit's and Julietta's passports, then called Lusine, his partner in Dubai, and asked her to take care of their visas. On February 20 th , Alik told Anahit that her visa was ready and she could leave on the 23 rd . Julietta inquired about her visa, and Alik told her to wait, it would be ready soon. Before Anahit left for Dubai, Alik took jewelry from her worth $400, to use as collateral against the cost of her trip. He promised to return the jewelry to her family after her departure, though he never did. Anahit left for Dubai.

Some time later, Alik told Julietta that her visa was also ready and she could depart. Alik demanded $700 for the visa. Julietta gives him the money and waited for the day of departure. After some time, Alik disappeared without paying the rent or returning the key, leaving only an unpaid phone bill with calls to Dubai totaling 854,000 drams (about $1,900). Several months, later Anahit called Julietta in tears, saying that Alik and Lusine had tricked her and forced her into prostitution. She warned Julietta not to come to Dubai.

Upon her arrival in the Dubai airport, Anahit was met by Alik's friend Lusine and a woman named Luiza. Lusine took Anahit's passport at the airport, saying that she had to give it to her sponsor before she could start working. The next day Lusine told Anahit to go to a cafe and find a client. Anahit refused to engage in prostitution.

Lusine then called Alik to complain. A month later, he came to Dubai. He beat Anahit and forced her to work. Anahit worked for Alik and Lusine for nine months, and by her own account, earned $26,000, but was still not allowed to return home. “I tried every option, but to no avail. I couldn't surrender to the police, because by their laws I would have to stay in jail until I found money. I once called Tigran Petrosyan, a law enforcement official in Armenia—one of the girls gave me his number—but he didn't help me,” Anahit explained.

By the time she had been in Dubai for two months, Anahit knew the city, could get by in English, and was going out alone. In a phone call to a friend she learned that a pimp named Anush (aka Mama Rosa) was with the help of Nelli from Bangladesh bringing Anahit's older daughter M., who was 17 at the time, to Dubai and that they were in Moscow already. M. was brought to Dubai and forced to work as a prostitute for two months, during which time she was not allowed to see her mother. “I didn't know how my daughter got into their hands, but that wasn't what mattered anymore. All I was thinking about was how I to free her and send her back to Armenia,” she said.

Anahit managed to find her daughter. Together, they moved into a friend's apartment, where they are subsequently arrested by the police. Both were thrown into jail. Anahit produced some documents and was freed; her daughter spent 20 days in jail and was deported to Armenia. Anahit confronted Alik, accusing him of bringing her daughter to Dubai. He denied any involvement.

Nine months later, Anahit escaped from Alik with a friend. In July, she was arrested by the Dubai police and deported to Armenia.

Anahit hasn't seen her children yet; they are living with her ex-husband's mother in the village of Kashatagh, 300km from Yerevan. “As soon as all of this is over, I will definitely go to see them. I know that my daughter hasn't told our relatives anything. In any case, I'm happy that's it's all over.”

Defendant Alik Gasparyan will tell his side of the story in the next session of the court.

Varduhi Zakaryan

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