Geopolitics

Underage Congolese Preyed Upon, Forced To Be Prostitutes In Morocco

Looking for family members who have emigrated to Europe, or in search of better opportunities, Congolese girls instead find themselves prey at the hands of human traffickers.

Victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mohamed Ey'ekula

RABAT — Dressed in blue skin-tight pants that reveal her curves, a revealing top that showcases her breasts and knee-high black boots, Evelyne walks the streets surrounding a squalid building in J5, a district in the Moroccan capital of Rabat where many African immigrants live. "Psst," she calls to a middle-aged man carrying shopping bags. "Wanna come upstairs, honey?" she asks, swaying her hips.

Evelyn is just 15. She comes from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and she is already a veteran prostitute, having been working the streets for two years. It all started in Maghnia, an Algerian town on the border with Morocco. "To reach Morocco, I was forced to prostitute in the transit camp where immigration candidates stay," she says. Like many other Congolese girls, she now does the "world’s oldest job" because of her family.

She says she was forced to flee her home in Makala, a densely populated neighborhood in Kinshasa. "My family threw me out because a pastor prophesied that I was a witch," she explains. After meeting an immigrant smuggler, a "cooperator" in local jargon, she was offered a journey to Europe in exchange for sexual favors. "When Guy, my cooperator, promised to take me with him, I didn't stop to think before I had sex with him," she says, showing no sign of remorse.

As a child of the streets, Evelyne was easy prey for the smuggler. But every circumstance is different. "Me, a cooperator offered my family to take me to Europe to my sister who lives in Lyon for $3,000," explains Mimi, who comes from a good family. "He gave my father to understand that we would take the plane in Brazzaville, but I arrived here in Morocco by road, traveling from country to country."

This is how the dangerous adventures of these minors begin, in the streets in Kinshasa. "The smugglers who live in Europe go back to their homeland to get these minors and take them to their parents, or brothers and sisters in Europe," explains an official from the Congolese embassy in Morocco.

For a trip that costs those who can pay cash $3,000 to $5,000, the journey starts in Brazzaville. "There, they put us in a pre-rented room where girls and boys sleep together on mats," says a young girl rescued by Voices of Migrant Women in Morocco. This association works hard to get these minors away from the migrants who exploit them and keep them in a state of virtual slavery. Then, in similar conditions, the journey continues through Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Algeria and across the desert to Morocco.

In the meantime, the girls have to obey their persecutors. "First, the cooperators start abusing us before forcing us into prostitution when money runs out," says a girl who managed to escape. On top of that, the smugglers deprive them of all sorts of things, including food. "Sometimes, we only eat once a day, and the meals aren't always good," the girl continues. "Not to mention that we can't do anything without permission. The cooperator acts like a master with his slaves."

Says Hélène Yamta, head of Voices of Migrant Women in Morocco, "These minors, often curvaceous teenagers, are prized prey for adults craving young flesh. They're at the mercy of these savages who have their documents in their possession and even filter their communications when their parents call them."

According to the organization Caritas Morocco, between six and eight Congolese minors come to them every week to tell them about the rapes and prostitution to which they are subjected between Kinshasa and Rabat. Often handed over by their families to unscrupulous people, their lives since leaving their hometowns are a succession of ordeals. And yet, they generally refuse to go back, still hoping to reach Europe.

What is certain is that they cannot count on other Congolese migrants to help them. As some of these young girls indeed experienced firsthand, they too will take advantage of them.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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