Because of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, most discussions and talks about the two nations is their differences and not similarities.

But one thing that these two people, unfortunately, have in common is the high rate of human trafficking.  And since both countries are vehemently patriarchal and don’t care much about their own citizens, it seems that the problem is not going to become any better any time soon.

I just read a disturbing story in Gulnaz Guliyeva’s article about an Azeri teenager who was forced into prostitution (it seems the link doesn’t work any more, but you can read it through a Google capture as retrieved on Oct 18, 2007)

14-year-old Elina (the name is fictitious), who lives in Baku, was in love with a young man, and ran away from home and married him.

The young man turned out to be a drug addict and at one of the moments when he was under the influence, the brother of her husband and the son of her husband’s sister took advantage of the situation and had a sexual intercourse with her. She spent a long time having to satisfy the sexual demands of the men in her husband’s family.

After her husband was arrested for drugs, Elina was left high and dry with a child. Strange as it may seem, but a “Mama Roza” offered to help her, saying that she can work as a vendor in a shop in Turkey.

But when she arrived there, it turned out that she had been sold for prostitution. On her return home, Elina who was left high and dry could not find any other job but prostitution. The next trip was to Nakhichevan, where she had to service businessmen from Iran and Turkey. Luckily, one of her clients of Turkish nationality decided to help her and get her out of this fatal situation. He took in her and her child, solved all her problems and brought her to the centre for psychological rehabilitation.

Few victims of human trafficking get help from strangers like in the case of Elina.  Guliyeva goes ahead to point to the interesting connection of a newly opened pipeline, that the United States refused to build because it isolates Armenia, and human trafficking:

Inside Azerbaijan, trafficking is blossoming in places of intensive economic activities. So-called Mama Rozas (pimps) hire 15-20 girls and take them to various places where intensive construction work or trade is going on. The centre has cases when girls were taken to cities where the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is being laid and to the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic which is often visited by businessmen from Turkey and Iran. This is a well-organized criminal business which is well-aware of the situation in the country and in places where their services are in demand.

One of the scariest things about human trafficking is that people ignore it and don’t want to discuss it. Last week, for example, I wrote a two-page article in Armenian about human trafficking for the newsletter of the the Student Government of the Yerevan State University.  I had talked to their president – a good friend – and he wanted me to write it.  I wasn’t surprised that they decided not to publish the story. So I sent it to Azg, and I am sure they won’t publish it either.

Why is it that when I write a critical piece about Turkey or especially Azerbaijan, oh, I have the blessings of Armenians and a number of newspapers ready to publish my writings.  But when it is a problem of human trafficking or Armenian poverty, for some reason the level of my writing doesn’t appeal as much to Armenian publications (I wonder if I should write an article about human trafficking for History Today).