ANKARA - Huda lived in Mezza, a rich neighborhood of Damascus. Her husband, Sami, used to monitor the resistance movement for the regime from the Syrian capital. His daily reports weren't supposed to harm anyone. His cooperation with the military and the police put food on the table.
One day about a year ago, he came home and said that the regime's Intelligence Agency was reporting that battles between the regime and the resistance might move to Mezza. Huda quickly decided to close her tailor’s shop, and packed her things and left with their two sons. When she thinks about her husband, she can’t stop crying. And even if she tells herself that it was for their sons’ sake, she says she cannot forgive herself.
Ifrah has also cast her lot in the same way as Huda. They are friends back from their school days, and more recently passed long days together with their children. Ifrah’s husband, Mohammad, works with Sami in an Intelligence Agency. Both of them earned their living by keeping certain citizens of Damascus and foreigners under close surveillance. Now, they are fighting together in the army of President Bashar al-Assad.
As Huda and Ifrah traveled together in a bus to Idlib (a town near the Turkish border), people were pointing at them because they knew Sami and Mohammad work for Assad. Some passengers and the driver cursed them out loud, calling them "whores," "killers" and "traitors."
When stopped early one morning in Idlib by the Free Syrian Army, Huda tried to distance herself from Sami’s work. Eventually, she gave them $50, but it did not leave her feeling safe. At the border in Ad Dan, some women pulled their hair and threatened to kill them.
Now, Huda and Ifrah have chosen to live in Ankara, not in Yayladagi, where many Syrian refugees have gone.
Their money quickly started running out, and since they don’t speak Turkish, neither of them can find work to provide for their children. When Huda received her first solicitation on the street, she refused to prostitute herself. After telling the story to her friend Ifrah, she didn’t leave her room for two weeks.
Still the money kept melting away. Then one day Ifrah told Huda she was going back downtown to look for a job again. It was a lie. For two nights in a row, no car stopped, until finally the next day one foreigner pulled over. He said he wanted a blow job. "I felt so disgusted," she recalled. "After five minutes, I left the car and vomited."
When Huda found out, she didn’t speak to her friend for two days. All she wanted to do was watch TV to find out what was happening in Damascus. But still, there was no news about her husband.
She then asked Ifrah if doing “this” would give them enough money to live and send their kids to school.
When she first went out to the street, she only thought about her children's well-being, and saving money. Her first client was an awful Turkish man. She threw up afterwards as well.
Huda and Ifrah still go shopping together, but now it's to buy lingerie and condoms, along with some toys for the kids.
Both of them say they will quit prostitution as soon as they can find any other job.
"Escort Girl Beni, at your service..." a girl introduces herself on the phone in three different languages: Turkish, Arabic and English.
Her name is Fahira, and she is 28. She graduated in Law at Damascus University. Self-confident and beautiful, Fahira is the daughter of a commander in the Syrian army. In February 2012, her father ordered the family to leave. Fahira and her four sisters and three brothers got passports, money and plane tickets. Her brothers went to school in the United Arab Emirates, one of her sisters moved to Sweden to stay with her uncle. Fahira landed in Istanbul, where she was supposed to get a job that her father’s friend had offered.
Back in Syria she had gotten used to a rich lifestyle: buying new clothes, going to parties. But the job offer in Turkey never materialized. She doesn’t want to talk about her father and the choices he's made. She is angry that his soldiers kill her friends.
In August, Fahira bumped into a man who told her she could make money modeling. He invited her for a meeting and said there was work as a hostess at some business conferences. Rate was $10,00 per night. Of course, she was not serving drinks.
Now, she says she calls her own shots, and gives her card to international businessmen she meets in clubs, and works only on weekends. During the week, she studies English and goes to the gym.
"My clients are not looking for prostitutes," Fahira insists. "They want an elegant woman who will help them succeed in business. I sleep with those who are nice to me."
Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Praying inside a Dutch mosque.
Broken trust in Islamic community
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
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