While our troops risk their lives for Operation Iraqi Freedom, some private businesses, under contract to the Defense Department, are engaged in human trafficking.
Last October the Chicago Tribune reported that the military contracting firm Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), working in Iraq, had become involved in human trafficking. In one instance twelve Nepali laborers were held against their will, stripped of their passports, and taken to Iraq to work on US military bases.
Slavery and human trafficking are not the legacy that the American people want to leave in Iraq. And they are certainly not an appropriate use of our hard-earned tax dollars.
These men met a grim fate: on their way to the US bases, they were kidnapped and later executed by Iraqi insurgents. Before their deaths, however, the Nepalis had paid the equivalent of a year’s salary to “job brokers” working on a sub-contract from KBR so they could be taken—most of them thought—to work in Jordan. But once in Jordan “brokers” confiscated their identification documents and announced that the promised jobs in Jordan were unavailable. Instead they were being sent to Iraq. While, in theory, these men could leave, in practice they had no choice but to stay. Their travel documents had been taken. They did not speak Arabic. They did not know who to turn to for help. They even felt compelled to repay the massive and risky loans their families had acquired to pay the “brokers.” According to both the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) and international conventions to which the US is a signatory, these men were victims of human trafficking.
President Bush has declared a zero-tolerance policy regarding human trafficking, yet this human rights violation continues in Iraq. While the Department of Defense has taken some action to address the problem, a US government spokesperson admitted that it was “like pulling teeth” to get contractors to return identification documents to their workers. It is time to punish contractors complicit in human trafficking, and ensure that the victims receive justice.
It is time to enforce the President’s zero-tolerance policy in Iraq and in the Department of Defense. Our nation, our tax dollars should not fund human trafficking.
To end contractor-sponsored trafficking in Iraq, we demand that:
These steps are necessary to eliminate complicity in human trafficking by US government contractors and sub-contractors and ensure that the victims receive justice. I encourage you to take swift and decisive action. These are tough days for Iraq; we must not make things worse by contracting with firms that violate not only our laws but also our most strongly held beliefs.
Warslavery.org is a production of Free the Slaves, a non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to fighting all forms of slavery the world over. For more information about Free the Slaves, visit our website at http://freetheslaves.net