November 2010 – Her name is Aziza. She is a young Somali woman of 16 years old. Her parents divorced when she was only two. She was cared for by her father in Afgooye. He was a vegetable seller. Almost a year ago, while coming home from her mother’s house in another town, Aziza bumped into a man who would change her life. He approached her, and tried to persuade her to leave with him offering a lot of money and a better life. She refused but he wouldn’t let her go. She was scared. She screamed and cried, and her cries eventually reached her father who came to rescue her. He warned the man and told him to never again come near his daughter; he would protect her for as long as he lives. A few days later, a group of men burst into their home in Afgooye. They killed Aziza’s father. Aziza was deeply shaken. From her account, she truly believes that the man was behind the murder. Aziza then moved to her mother’s house only to find out that the man was still stalking her. “Leave my daughter alone, you killed her father, what more do you want? It’s over!” her mother told him. But it was far from over yet.
He took Aziza by force, threatening to kill her and her remaining family. It was the start of her treacherous journey.
The man took Aziza to Galkayo, then to Hargaysa. They entered Djibouti and finally reached Yemen. During the journey Aziza was constantly drugged. The drugs were mixed with the food and drinks that she was offered by the man. Later on, Aziza reported that the man did not physically harm her, but threatened to kill her whole family back in Somalia if she ever tried to escape. He also forced Aziza to lie and tell everyone that she was his sister to make sure that she would not be separated from him upon landing in Yemen. Aziza could only obey, as she was scared and knew only him in the new country.
Arriving in Yemen, albeit her fears, Aziza saw the chance to escape. She saw a man wearing a police uniform who was helping other migrants like her, and pleaded him to help her. The Police Officer could not understand her, but by chance a staff of ADRA saw what was happening and sensed Aziza’s distress. He took her aside, spoke to her in her native language, and told her he would look for help for her. He then brought her to another person who, she later found out, works for the INTERSOS Counter Trafficking Unit in Kharaz camp.
Aziza was interviewed and identified as a victim of trafficking. In close coordination with UNHCR, she was then referred to IOM’s shelter for protection, where she is slowly recovering. Aziza experienced acute stress reaction and went through a couple of hysteria attacks. She is mostly scared of what the man will do to her family back home. At the shelter, she has been provided with medical and psychological care .In the meantime, UNHCR is coordinating efforts to have the man found and arrested, and to communicate with Aziza’s mother back in Somalia. Aziza has now started to open up to the other women at the shelter and is taking part in the shelter activities. She particularly likes her handicraft lessons.
Aziza is one of the 22 trafficked women assisted by IOM and its partners from July 1 to October 31, 2010. Figures in the same period highlight that another 23 children, of a total of 35 persons, mainly Ethiopian, were also identified as victims of trafficking. Most of them have received psychosocial and medical care as well as shelter.
With an effective identification system now in place in Yemen, reports of trafficking cases are expected to increase. The most vulnerable people are women, children and the economically disadvantaged.
* Named changed for protection reasons. The image is for illustrative purposes only and is not the woman featured in the story.
* The story is related to the month of October; figures are as of 31st October, 2010
By DRC Yemen
Photo by Cassandra Mathie