Another piece by Andy Turpin from tomorrow’s The Armenian Weekly.

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—The anti-slavery film “Amazing Grace” opens this weekend. It tells the story of abolitionist leader William Wilberforce and his lifelong efforts that ended the British slave trade through the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 (though it took strict enforcement by British officials throughout the 1830s before the slave trade was effectively curbed.) The film’s screenwriter is Stephen Knight, writer of “Dirty Pretty Things,” a story about illegal immigrant culture in Europe.

From a public relations perspective, “Amazing Grace” looks to be a thought provoking film and an adequate media send-off giving lip service to February as “Black History Month.” The producer of the film, Bristol Bay Productions, has also helped to disseminate information on the anti-slavery campaign, “The Amazing Change.” (For more information about this campaign, visit

Yet, the steps they list to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking are limited to raising awareness, forming a discussion group, and donating to their campaign.

These are the nice solutions. These are the solutions you tell your elementary schooler. These are not the solutions, though, that save lives.

I burst this bubble not to be uncouth or condescending, but because the people who continue these acts today are virtual demons in human guise. And because these are major issues in Armenia and the Diaspora, in such places as Greece, France and Israel, not to mention every major U.S. city.

These problems aren’t hidden. They are, rather, problems that only law enforcement has jurisdiction over or enough brute force to handle.

Petitioning and letter writing are still valuable avenues to pursue, but let’s walk through the most pragmatic ways to approach the problem: Stay informed and concerned for these people. To not is to de-humanize them. We’re not speaking of “let my people go” situations. We’re speaking of dark places from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Read Victor Malarek’s The Natashas for background, go to the Investigative Journalists of Armenia website at, then just check the archives of any Greek or Israeli newspaper to see how epidemic the problem is.

1. When it comes to lobbying, almost all countries have laws saying it is illegal to traffic humans or enslave them. Politicians aren’t the ones in charge of breaking down doors— law enforcement agents and peacekeeping soldiers are. Write to Interpol and American UN officers to search more transport vehicles at border checkpoints, and to ask women in these zones if they are in of need protection or are crossing borders of their own free will. (This seems basic, but not all officers are trained to do so.)

This request may not always prove successful due to scare tactics used on victims or their inability to speak the language of the officer, but observing such indicated fear or linguistic inability could be a tip-off to an agent.

Also, write your local customs office or port authority official and ask to increase the number of searched cargo containers. Many victims are smuggled into countries in this way. Ships often contain hundreds of containers, but increasing the requisite search number helps the odds of saving more people.

2. Though it may seem crass to assume that you may be seen in a “gentlemen’s club” of ill repute, such establishments are often fronts for sex slavery. If a dancer seems drugged or scared, ask them about it or discretely call the police. If it is a legitimate club, the dancers will most likely be registered with the proper authorities. If not, your call may help build evidence in a case against the traffickers.

3. As for making donations, “The Poppy Project” based out of London is a growing organization that specializes in therapy and safe harbor for victims of slavery and trafficking after they are cleared by law enforcement authorities.

What makes the fight against human trafficking and slavery so difficult is the passivity of governments, citizens, soldiers and law enforcement officers who, in most circumstances, are decent people.

To that end, especially if are traveling in Armenia, show vigilance towards potentially trafficked victims that may be Ukrainian or Russian. In Armenia, institutional corruption and cultural prejudices often hamper enforcement efforts.

Likewise, if traveling in Dubai or Israel specifically, be on the watch for Armenian women that may be victims.

These are not pleasant things to write about. However, apathy of good people in the presence of evil is tantamount to complicity. With concerted efforts, ground can be gained in this struggle against that which, more than a hundred years ago, curbed a similar hell on earth for people in slavery.