Friday, January 4, 2008

Iraqi Children Are Being Sold, Too...

Yesterday I wrote about little boys in China who were being kidnapped from their parents and sold on the black market. I've always known that a black market for children exists in the world, but I never realized how extreme it was! It seems like every day now I read stories about this type of thing.
Today I read a heartbreaking story about a father in Iraq who sold his daughter to the black market.
The father of four's life began to fall apart when he lost his home, and his wife, to violence when militia took over his neighborhood in Baghdad. He and the four children moved into a refugee camp. From there, he was unable to get to work, and his children were unable to get to school. HIs children were suffering. The youngest one, two-year-old Fatima, was suffering the most. She was malnourished, weak, and ill.
Some visitors came to the camp... a Swedish couple who said they were part of a relief agency, and a translator. They tried to convince the father to let them take his daughter, in exchange for some money. The Swedish couple said they would raise the child as their own. The father refused. But the trio came back again and again, asking for Fatima.
As Fatima grew weaker and sicker, the father became afraid that the child wouldn't survive. So one day, when the people came to visit, the father agreed to give them Fatima. The people had papers for him to sign, and in exchange, they fave him the equivelant of $10,000 in US dollars.
The father now may be able to provide a better life for his other three children, and he truly believes that Fatima will have a better life with the Swedish couple. But the pain of having handed away his daughter is still there.
This is not an uncommon scenario in Iraq. People from Europe, as well as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, have been traveling to Iraq and convincing impoverished parents to hand over their children in exchange for money. For a young baby, a parent may be given up to the equivelant of $30,000. Older children may be sold for as little as $3,000.
To some, it may seem like these black market "adoptions" are a good thing for everyone involved... Prospective parents are able to quickly get a child, a needy child gets a new home, and a needy family gets enough money to survive. But these illegal adoptions are not a good thing. First of all, there is no way to be sure of where these children are ending up! The situation is very different from when a desperate parent turns a child over to an orphanage or an actual relief agency. These people haven't gone through any types of background checks or interviews to make sure that they have good intentions for raising a child. When a parent hands over a child to one of these people, they are hoping for the best for that child, but it basically is a crap shoot.
Authorities fear that some children may be used in the sex trade, or even the black market organ transplant trade. One father sold his six-year-old daughter to some people from Jordan who said they wanted to adopt her. Relatives of the father later told him they saw her with the people from Jordan, working as a servant and being physically abused. The father was given $20,000 for the child, but now that he knows the situation his daughter has ended up in, he is trying to get his child back and wants to give the money back as well.
But once a child is taken out of Iraq, it is very hard for the authorities to get the child back, even if they know she was "adopted" illegally. Authorities are trying to make it harder for black marketers to get kids out of the country. Often people will drug a child heavily, so when they drive over the border, the child is asleep and cannot say anything to border patrol agents that will give the situation away. Now, border patrol agenrs are required to have people wake up any sleeping children in a vehicle, except for babies who are too young to talk. The children are then interviewed to make sure they are actually with their real parents.
Black marketers are not satisfied with just buying children from parents, either. As in China, many children have simply disappeared. Other parents have their children taken from them at gunpoint. One mother said that armed men took her three-year-old daughter away from her. The woman later recieved a letter saying the child had been adopted by a couple in Europe.
Not all children who get adopted from Iraq are illegally adopted. Legitimate adoptions do occur... but this makes it even easier for unscrupulous people to trick parents into handing over their children.
According to international relief agency UNICEF, the solution to this crisis is to get Iraqi children back into school, and provide relief efforts to needy families. UNICEF does help find homes for children who have actually been orphaned, but makes every attempt to find an adoptive home for the child with someone she is connected to already, such as a relative, family friend, or community member. International adoptions are considered a last resort. UNICEF also tries very hard to trace the child's birth parents, to make sure that the child is actually an orphan and hasn't just been separated from her family.
One way that individuals can help stop child trafficking in Iraq and other countries is by helping agencies such as UNICEF, Islamic Relief USA, Relief International, Middleeast Fellowship, Millenium Relief and Development Services, Operation Blessing, and UNICEF.
Supporting agencies such as these, that send workers to Iraq to provide aid to families, is the key to protecting children. Families recieving help will not be as desperate to take a stranger up on an offer to buy a child. And children who are in school, being educated and supervised, will be less likely to be snatched off the streets.


Christine said...

THis is so horrible. As an adoptive parent, my heart goes out to all involved, especially the children.

Anonymous said...

In Russia there's more than 1 million homeless children. They need your HELP!