This report was published for the first time in Kurdish in Lvin magazine on June 15, 2008. Lvin is an independent bimonthly magazine published in standard Kurdish in Sulaymaniyah, south Kurdistan.
This report, and the secrets revealed in it, is widely thought to be a main factor behind the assassination of the author at his own home in Kirkuk on July 21, 2008, just 36 days after its publication.
He had received many death threats before his murder. Soran Mama Hama was only 23-years-old. This report demonstrates that, solely through his own efforts and his humanistic and patriotic interest in reporting the truth, he had established himself as an effective professional reporter. His great ability, clear language and professionalism combined with courage and commitment to the causes of the underdog make his loss irreplaceable and the crime of his murder even more atrocious.
I call upon UNAMI, the US Embassy in Iraq, the British Consulate in Kurdistan Region, Amnesty International, the Iraqi Government, Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdish organisations and journalists interested in Soran’s case to use this report as an important starting point for the investigation of his murder.
It is obvious that whoever murdered Soran Mama Hama was trying to kill free investigative journalism and ultimately the truth.
Prostitutes conquer Kirkuk
The phenomenon of prostitution in Kirkuk is becoming widespread. Part of the officers and high-ranking persons of the police, security and other institutions of the city are involved in it and they turn a blind eye to, and even facilitate, this phenomenon and participate in it by buying the flesh of these women.
Latif’s mother is an elderly woman. She speaks in Arabic and knows a poor Kurdish. In her looks and conduct she wants to behave like a powerful man. Wearing a blue tracksuit and a large red blouse, she was sitting comfortably on an old scruffy sofa. She was smoking. Her teenage son next to her was busy with his mobile phone. He was receiving constant phone calls. They were all asking the same thing: they wanted to visit the house and he had a positive answer to all of them. I asked him to switch his mobile off so that I could ask them some questions.
Um Latif runs a network of prostitutes in Kirkuk city. Contrary to other prostitutes I have talked to, she says the main factor that led her into this business was her involvement with the police. She said: “the checkpoints and visits to police stations taught me this business.” She said to me: “There is a lot of corruption and bureaucracy in the offices. You cannot have any service done for you unless you have money or girls to offer [as a bribe].”
This body-selling woman chose the second option. She says: “Because I took girls to them I have been able to free prisoners from jail. I have had work done for me by the civic registry office and the passport office.” Latif’s mother says: “There are more than 200 brothels in Kirkuk. In each of these there are between two and six prostitutes. I started this business after the downfall of Saddam Hussain in 2003.”
Nada is a 26-year-old girl. She is a dark tall lady. She came to Um Latif’s house while I was interviewing. I realised she had gone with a customer some hours before. When Nada saw me in the room, she did not enter. But after a while she asked us to interview her too. When she came in I could feel that she was very tired and semi compos mentis. Her mediator said: “Most of the girls drink alcohol. They also take drugs.”
Nada explained why. She said: “I am always sad. I am depressed. When I come home I either drink or take drugs.” She told me the story of her addiction. When her family lived in Samara, she ran from her home escaping from her brothers after her husband was killed in the Sunni-Shiite conflict. Since then her life has been constant big fear. “I am sacred that my brothers will find and kill me.”
Although prostitution is illegal and should be prevented by the police and authorities, as far as Um Latif’s network concerned, the matter is quite contrary. Some policemen and officers are part of her prostitution market ring. She says: “Sometimes high-ranking police officers phone me and threaten me because I have not taken girls to them for free.” She gave the example of one of the police stations. “They took away a girl named Nura allegedly because she was under arrest. After some time Nura came back. She said they had raped her at the police station.”
In following up this report, I managed to obtain the names of three police lieutenant colonels and colonels and other high ranking officers who are the prostitutes’ customers. But for journalistic morality we have not published their names although their identities are kept at Lvin magazine.
Latif’s mother even said that she has sponsors at police stations who bring girls to her for prostitution. She asserts: “They have brought me many girls.” But although the police are supporting her in her business, she says “they also harass us a lot. I change my place every month.” In spite of this she talks proudly about the strong support she has.
She also talks on behalf of a political party. She says: “I belong to one of the political parties. I work for them. I have handed over three terrorists to them so far.” She indicated that they also have customers who are terrorists. She says: “The terrorists have come here several times and taken away girls for sex.”
The tales of prostitutes travel beyond Kirkuk and to become the focal point of talk for the youth and officials in Sulaymaniyah and Arbil. About the sex trips taken by people of Sulaymaniyah and Arbil to Kirkuk, Latif’s mother says: “A number of officials have come here from Sulaymaniyah and Arbil. They have taken away girls for one week, ten days or two weeks for US$700 to US$800. We have the names of those military officials of Sulaymaniyah and Arbil who have taken away girls for sex. Most of the customers are military officers, police and security men.”
Um Latif feels sad because “the girls are often beaten and harmed especially by security men. PUK’s security men are the worst.”
About the spread of prostitution in Kirkuk, Um Latif says: “There is no neighbourhood in Kirkuk that does not have one or two brothels. Even in the Kurdish suburbs like Shorija, Rahimawa and Iskan they have special houses. But the prostitutes are mostly Arabs and they have come here from the middle and south of Iraq.”
Some of these sex workers have been in Syria and Jordan and then returned to Iraq and there is fear that they might have AIDs. When we were at Um Latif’s house a woman came back with two big suitcases. Um Latif said: “This girl is coming back from Syria. She got married there a month ago.” The girl looked exhausted. But her sponsor did not hide the fact that “there are many women in Kirkuk with AIDS but no one gives a damn about them.” But she assures her own customers by saying: “My girls all use medicine and are clean. I do not take girls who have got AIDs.”
In spite of this she does not care about the use of condoms. She says: “Condoms are rubbish. They do not prevent anything.” The prostitutes’ nanny told me that the prostitutes who are ill and have AIDs work at hotels at the night time “such as Hotel Nergis, Hotel Jihan, Hotel Ta’mim, Hotel Diwan and others. They work at night and go home at day time.”
A police source said: “In the past few months some prostitutes were at the removal section of the police. Then they were sentenced to life. But they were all covered by the general amnesty. And some are under 18. For example a girl called Huda Musa. She was from Mosul and she was only 15-years-old.”
But Um Latif tells the story differently. She says: “Huda was taken out by three boys. Police arrested them. They freed the boys without any charges. But Huda and her dalal, mediator, were sentenced to 15 years. Then they were freed by a general amnesty. However, given the size of prostitution in Kirkuk, only few of women are arrested.”
About the phenomenon of prostitution and its problems, the social researcher in Kirkuk Narmin Najmaddin says: “The main factor behind prostitution is poverty and family problems. These girls fail in their lives and resort to prostitution.” Narmin Najmaddin thinks that the women who become prostitutes have been unable to adjust themselves to the big problems they face in their lives. “Then when they grow up they want to meet their living needs through a work that does not need much effort.”
She adds: “But deprivation is not the only reason for prostitution. There are many deprived women who do not resort to this solution. But the women [who choose prostitution] like it!” She says that prostitution is an easy way to get money. “Once you chose to sell your body, then nothing else in life is important to you. You would do anything.”
Lvin editorial note: The people mentioned in this report are genuine. Lvin has kept their names. But because of public morality we prefer not to publish them.