Whore or Harem?

by Ranbir Singh

 

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1981 film on Lucknow courtesans starring Rekha

“An unmarried slave woman was at the disposal of her owner.”

Bernard Lewis (1995), The Middle East, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1995, p.209

“Muslim prostitutes were numerous in northern India ranging from the inmate of a brothel to the wealthy courtesan, who earned a high fee for her singing and occupied well-furnished quarters.”

Shashi Panjrath (2000), Devadasi System in India, Om Publications, Faridabad, 2000, p.73

“The prostitutes of the realm (who had collected at the capital, and could scarcely be counted, so large was their number) had a separate quarter of the town assigned to them, which was called the ‘Shaitanpura’, or ‘Devil’s Villa’. A Darogah (Superintendent) and a clerk were also appointed for it, who registered the names of such as went to prostitutes or wanted to take some of them to their houses. People might indulge in such connection provided the toll-collector head of it. But without permission, no one was allowed to take dancing girls to his house.”

Abul Fazl, Ain-i-Akbari

“One of the greatest pleasures of the courtesan film is undoubtedly nostalgia, largely for a lost Islamic world, which is usually presented as a spectacle of excess and elaboration. The Urdu language is seen in its glory as the language of poetry and formal manners; the music and dance is a light classical style which is rarely seen today. This is seen best in Umrao Jaan, whose attention to detail and painstaking recreation of the glories of Avadh, in particular in terms of sets and costumes has never been equalled.”

Rachel Dwyer (2000), All You Want is Money, All You Need is Love, Cassell, London, 2000, p.128

“Historically, sigheh was practiced most frequently among pilgrims and clerics in the holy cities of Mashad and Qom. Pilgrims who travelled had sexual needs, it was argued; sigheh was a legal way to satisfy them. In his two-volume 1892 opus on Iran, Persia and the Persian Question, Lord Curzon described his shock at the widespread practice of sigheh among pilgrims in Mashad, where he said, “a gigantic system of prostitution, under the sanction of the Church, prevails.”

Elaine Sciolino (2005), Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, Free Press, New York, 2005, p.127

 

Radical Islam and even its moderate votaries do have the smug arrogance of denouncing the social dysfunctionality of western nations. Sayyid Qutb was only one of many who said that all women were treated like whores. Now such demagogues claim any western city is full of scantily clad women inebriated by alcohol with a total lack of self-respect. They say sex is pushed in all spheres that western society is merely obsessed by this. However they claim to have the viable alternative which has always given dignity to women and not seen them as mere sex objects. In this they have been helped by ‘useful idiots’ to take the term used by one of Hasan al-Bana’s heroes, Lenin. In their naïve do-ggodism they see Islamic civilisation as one literally free from vice. For example, Nils Ringdal is a Norwegian scholar who has researched prostitution as global phenomena. In Love for Sale he makes the rather unbelievable revelation that Islam was the most successful religion and civilisation which did away with prostitution. Prostitution is explicitly condemned in Quran, and in fact retreated wherever Islam expanded. Rape was uncommon and the military garrisons did not have a parallel army of prostitutes around the encampment to satisfy sexual desires. Ringdal believes that the allowance of polygamy, by which Muslim men could take women as additional wives or concubines, lessened the need for prostitution. (Nils Ringdal, Love for Sale, Atlantic Books, London, translated from Norwegian by Richard Daly, 2004 (originally 1997) pp.132-36). We need to take such idealisation with some scepticism. After all what about the injunctions of the Quran which permit the faithful to have four wives as well as being allowed to cohabit with any of their female slaves. Surah iv:3 says:

“Then marry what seem to be good to you of women”;

Surah iv:29:

 

“Take what your right hand possesses of young women”.

 

Surah xxxiii:49:

“Verily we make lawful for thee what thy right hand possesses out of the booty God hath granted thee.”

Muslims are allowed to take possession of married women if they are slaves. Surah iv:28 declares:

 

“Unlawful for you are… married women, save such as your right hand possesses”.

In other words female slaves captured in war.

 

Loss of Manhood

 

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Hijras in India

However one area where Ringdal does admit there was active sale of sex, was with young slave boys. He traces this to pre-Islamic customs in Iran. Ringdal also mentions the use of eunuchs to guard harems. Indeed in Islamic civilisation it had become common to have male slaves as eunuchs to guard harems, in a practice which appears to have roots in the Byzantine and Sassanid Persian empires. In the caliph’s palace in Baghdad in the tenth century, there were seven thousand black and four thousand white eunuchs. Prague and Verdun became emasculation centres for supplying white eunuchs, while Central Asians were supplied by the castration centre at Kharazon. As late as the nineteenth century, Christian monks at the monastery of Deir al-Jandala in Egypt performed the operation on black slaves who were to be employed as eunuchs. Ibn Battuta wrote of Bornu in 1353 that the Islamic state supplied slave girls, saffron dyed fabrics and eunuchs. Also near Lake Chad, the Muslim state of Baghirmi acted as a major castration centre for exporting eunuch slaves. The glorification of virility and military values, combined with the seclusion of women, led to extreme sexual frustration of young Muslim men. This would explain the reports in nineteenth century Morocco of masters castrating their own male slaves to be used as concubines. Certainly many in Iran, love poems were explicitly written by men for other men.(Ronald Segal, Islam’s Black Slaves, Atlantic Books, London, 2001, pp.41-2). We might also cite here the famous writings of Arab poet, Abu Nuwas glorifying homosexual love in unambiguous language. This type of behaviour of course found its peculiar outlet in the vice trade:

 

“Homosexuality was common in all parts of society, from schools to religious brotherhoods. The hammams or Turkish saunas, were decorated most un-Islamically with erotic mosaics, paintings, or statues, were a meeting point for many homosexuals. Male prostitution were also common in most large towns; often young boys offering themselves for a price to travellers in hostels.”

(Ibn Warraq, op. cit., p.203)

 

Boy brothels existed in Karachi and Cairo, while pederasty was endemic among Iranians and Pushtuns. Indeed it became an integral part of national culture in Afghanistan in the form of batsha troupes of dancing boys. In the early nineteenth century it was estimated that there were more male than female prostitutes in Istanbul. (Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality, Manchester University Press, 1991, p.141) This practice mirrored that of ancient Greece where a beardless youth was expected to be attractive to an older man, even if the latter was married. The youth was cast in the role of passive recipient of anal sex, dishonoured, stripped of his masculinity and thereby dignity:

 

“In this context, whatever the sexual inclinations of the male slave might have been, he had no choice in the matter. And for those male slaves who were used against their will, in a culture so preoccupied with masculine honour, a special sense of shame might well have been involved.”

(Segal, op.cit, p.42)

 

Christian merchants of western Europe were eager to exploit the demand for eunuchs in the Islamic world. Judith Herrin, professor of Byzantine Studies at King’s College, London:

 

“In the tenth century, Liutprand, Bishop of Cremona, explained how the western trade worked. The operation to create ‘eunuchs who have had both their testicles and their penis removed . . . is performed by traders in Verdun, who take the boys into Spain and make a huge profit’. Despite physical difficulties, those that survived often lived to an old age and were recognized by their longer than usual limbs. The market at Verdun in northern France had developed to provide slave labour in Islamic countries, such as the Umayyad Caliphate of Spain, where eunuchs were greatly appreciated. Despite several repeated papal decrees against the trade, Christian merchants refused to give up the lucrative business of enslaving, castrating and selling young men, who were often Christian. Women were also in demand in the harems of the Islamic courts.”

(Judith Herrin, Byzantium, Penguin Books, London, 2007, p.163)

 

Under the Ottomans, eunuchs held immense power especially as they had direct access to the sultan. Most were manufactured from blacks captured by slave trader sin the Nilotic Sudan. (Ringdal, op. cit., pp.309-11).

 

In India the medieval sultans were very fond of handsome young slaves whom they kept close as pages, service-boys, bodyguards, special troops and as sexual companions. Muhammad Hindu Shah Farishtah in his Tarikh and Khondamir in his Dasturul Wuzra relate the following incident about Mahmud Ghaznavi. Sultan Mahmud had a passion for slaves possessing handsome faces. His Wazir Abul Abbas Fazl bin Ahmad followed his example:

 

“Fazl, on hearing the reputation of the beauty of a boy in Turkistan, deputed a confidential person to purchase that boy (whose countenance was beautiful as that of the planet Venus), and bring him to Ghazni, according to the mode of conveyance usually adopted for females. When an informer represented to the king these circumstances, his most august Majesty demanded that slave (who was as white as silver) from the minister… The minister made evasive replies, and pertinaciously refused to part with the slave, notwithstanding His Majesty’s absolute power. The king one night visited the minister at his house (without prior notice), where the minister entertained him with respect and hospitality due to the dignity of a sovereign. When the slave (who looked as beautiful as a virgin of paradise) came into the presence of the king, high words passed between him and his minister, and so greatly was the king’s anger kindled, that he issued orders to seize the minister and plunder his house. Soon after this the king departed for Hindustan, and certain evil-disposed amirs tortured the minister so severely with the rack that he lost his life.”

 

Mahmud’s court was guarded by four thousand such Turkish good looking and beardless ghulam turk washaq. Sultan Alauddin Khalji had intimate relations with his favourite eunuch slave Malik Kafur who as a faithful general helped extend the domains of Islam wide into northern India form Delhi. Some of the greatest figures of the sultanate were in fact eunuchs. Under the Mughals many important eunuchs, who were known as Nazirs and Khwaja Saras, rose to the position of commanders and governors. With full access to the harem they became some of the most powerful and indeed corrupt officials. Yet this was small compensation for the physical humiliation they had to endure. Literally thousands of boys suffered emasculation and thus slave markets grew up to cater for the trade as Hindu prisoners were taken in the wars of Islam throughout India. Others were imported. Emperor Jahangir wrote of families in Sylhet who castrated their own boys to be taken instead of revenue. (KS Lal, Muslim Slave System in Medieval India, Voice of India, Delhi, 1994, http://voiceofdharma.org/books/mssmi/ch9.htm)

 

In this polygamous society some men possessed a plurality of women leaving many other men to remain unmarried. This led the latter to entice, abduct and enslave girls wherever possible as well as to make love to beardless boys (amrads) and hijras. Thus need combined with perversion contributed to the proliferation of hijras as amply reflected in a brief survey of life in Delhi. The Muraqqa-i-Dihli (Album of Delhi) was written by Dargah Quli Khan when he visited the city during 1738 and 1739 and he found boys dancing in a world of lecherous sinners soliciting their hearts’ desire. Amrads were as much in demand as courtesans. As Mughal rule declined in the eighteenth century, many eunuchs and harem slaves left the palaces to fend for themselves. Unable to maintain harems the nawabs and sultans dispensed with the need for eunuchs. Many slave girls adopted the profession of dancing girls and prostitutes while hundreds of eunuchs, thrown out of employment, turned into bhands and hijras, the latter being people peculiar to India having historically ‘descended’ from the eunuchs. But this is only part of the explanation. During and after the decline of the Mughal empire, hijras spread far and wide but especially where the scions or governors of the Mughals established independent states like in Avadh or Hyderabad. A good number of hijras are found in Lucknow and in Hyderabad, as well as in cities like Bombay where ‘composite culture’ and a respectable presence of Muslims obtains. These unfortunate hijras, who have continued as a legacy of the Muslim slave system, still play a pernicious and parasitical role in Indian society. Their aggressive demand for benefaction makes them detested. There are many negative aspects of Islamic slave system in India, of which probably the hijra is the worst. But in medieval times hijraswere as essential a part of Muslim society as any other section. In Delhi and its environs there are extant a number of mausoleums, called Gumbads, of the Saiyyad and Lodi period. It is an interesting fact that with Bare Khan Ka Gumbad (Dome and Tomb), Chhote Khan Ka Gumbad, Dadi ka Gumbad, and Poti Ka Gumbad, there is also the famous Hijre Ka Gumbad.

 

Women as Merchandise

While there was a demand for eunuchs which led to the inevitable sexual exploitation, this was driven of course by the need to guard harems where literally thousands of females were incarcerated to serve as sex slaves for Islam’s rich and powerful. Along with four official wives an unlimited number of concubines are allowed hence the specific targeting of female sexual enslavement, justified by the sacred texts. Muhammad bin Tughlaq became notorious for enslaving women. Ibn Battuta, who visited India during his reign and stayed at the Court, for a long time writes:

“At (one) time there arrived in Delhi some female infidel captives, ten of whom the Vazir sent to me. I gave one of them to the man who had brought them to me… My companion took three girls, and – I do not know what happened to the rest.”

On the large scale distribution of girl slaves on the occasion of Muslim festivals like Id, he writes:

“First of all, daughters of Kafir (Hindu) Rajas captured during the course of the year, come and sing and dance. Thereafter they are bestowed upon Amirs and important foreigners. After this daughters of other Kafirs dance and sing…The Sultan gives them to his brothers, relatives, sons of Maliks etc. On the second day the durbar is held in a similar fashion after Asr. Female singers are brought out… the Sultan distributes them among the Mameluke Amirs.”

 

From the time of Muhammad bin Qassim invading Sindh, Hindu women preserved their honour by the desperate act of jauhar. Making a large fire they would commit mass suicide when all the men were killed in battle, and sexual enslavement in the harem was the inevitable alternative to jumping in a huge pit of fire. (Lal, http://voiceofdharma.org/books/mssmi/ch12.htm)

Female slaves were hired out as prostitutes as well as being entirely at the sexual disposal of the master (Ibn Warraq, op. cit., p.203). In this environment where women were seen as just another commodity, prostitution of course could not die out but rather it thrived. While it was supposed to be a profession of the unbelievers, Muslim women made up the majority of employees in the brothels of Cairo and Aleppo, where the prostitutes were even officially taxed ( Ringdal, op. cit., pp.132-36). The Quran allowed the master to sexually enjoy female slaves (Segal, Islam’s Black Slaves, p.36). Many became concubines in vast harems. Abd al Rahman III (912-61) of Cordoba had six thousand such sex slaves. The Fatimids of Cairo had twelve thousand. Even humble artisans and merchants often had at least one concubine slave. Sometimes masters married their sex slaves (Segal, pp.38-9). Female slaves were worked mainly as domestic servants, or were trained as entertainers specialising in music and dancing, something which overlapped with their other purpose, that of being forced into prostitution (William D Phillips Jr, Slavery from Roman Times to the Early Transatlantic Trade, Manchester University Press, 1985, op. cit., p.72).

Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi fixed the price of prostitutes along with other commodities (Abraham Eraly, The Mughal World, Phoenix, London, 2008p.119). Indeed Islamic rule in India recognised and encouraged prostitution. Courtesans with singing and dancing skills were in great demand for social functions. Prostitutes, often being composed of captured Hindu females, accompanied Muslim armies as the spread across India. The Ain-i-Akbari mentions that there were so many prostitutes in the capital that they could not be accurately quantified. They were housed in separate quarters the Shaitanpura (Panjrath, op. cit., p.47) or “Devil’s Quarter”, an area where Emperor Akbar made them live outside the main city. A clerk recorded names of all clients. His grandson was more indulgent according to Indian researcher into prostitution, Shashi Panjrath:

 

“Emperor Shahjahan (1627-1657 AD) gave suffient encouragement to the prostitutes. Generally no royal or aristocratic feast and festival as considered successful without the presence of the dancing and singing girls. Regarding these dancing and singing girls or Kanchars, Bernier said that they (Kanchars) were not indeed the prostitutes seen in the bazaar, but those of a more private and respectable class. These Kanchars used to attend the grand wedding of Omrahs and Mansbdars, for the purpose of singing and dancing. Most of the Kanchars were handsome and well dressed. However they were common women.”

 

Shah Jahan’s sons continued in this tradition. Dara Shikoh patronised talented dancing girls and even married one, Ra No-Dil. Shah Shuja also patronised them, as indeed did the puritanical Aurangzeb. Under his rule Italian traveller Manucci mentions six thousand brothels in Surat alone under his rule. Indeed this emperor himself visited dancing girls every Wednesday at Am Khas, and could not stop them entertaining begums and princesses (Panjrath, op. cit., pp.73-76). Mughal India abounded in large colonies of prostitutes in all major towns and even villages. In the early seventeenth century the traveller Nicholas Withington found an entire village of prostitutes in Gujarat:

“This towne the King’s father (ould Accaba) after the conquest of Guyseratt, cominge thether, gave to a company of women and theire posteritie for ever, upon condition to teache and bringe upp theire children in theire owne profession, which is dauncing, etc. At our beeinge here, the women from the towne came into our caravan and daunced, everye man givinge them somethinge; and afterwards they asked opnelye: Whoe wants a bedfellow. Soe shamelesse they were.”

 

Manucci mentions six thousand brothels in Lahore. Tavernier mentioned twenty thousand prostitutes in Hyderabad, all licensed. Indeed it was unlawful to sell sex without a license. The Kanchanas or Luliyanis on the other hand formed a class of respectable dancing girls (Eraly, op. cit., pp.119-20).

 

Mughal India’s prostitutes accomplished much in the fields of dancing and music. In Ghanaram’s Bengali Sri Dharam Mangal the courtesan Suriksha was shown to be an erudite prostitute (Panjrath, op. cit., p.77). The most accomplished courtesans in Islamic India were from Lucknow which became north India’s major cultural centre after the decline of Delhi. It was renowned for the quality of its Urdu literature. From 1857 it suffered a decline although zamindars of Avadh were able to maintain a semblance of the courtly culture right up until independence in 1947. The loss of wealthy patrons meant the decline in support for the courtesans or tawa’if. Rachel Dwyer from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies:

“They [retired courtesans] tell how they lived in households (kotha) run by a chief courtesan (choudhrayan), who had acquired wealth and fame through her beauty, her music and her dancing talents, which she used to set up her own house where she would recruit and train younger courtesans. The courtesan had to learn music and Urdu poetry, and to dance the mujra, a dance where she pays her respects to the assembly rather than an erotic spectacle. The best houses kept skilled male musicians and were important patrons of music. The sons of the gentry were sent to the kothas to learn manners and Urdu poetry, and presumably the art of love-making. Other women lived in the establishment, including the regular prostitutes (randi) and a strange category of khangis, married women who were in purdah but were involved in clandestine relationships for financial gain.”

This courtesan was used as the model for Urdu novels such as Umrao Jaan Ada by Mirza Mohammad Hadi Ruswa in 1899, and more famously the film Pakeezah. The courtesan is portrayed as an accomplished singer and dancer. In the ghazals which she writes she expresses her desire for the love and marriage which will always be denied to her. Yet for this very reason she embodies female eroticism as she is the very opposite of the wife. Nevertheless she is averse to her profession, calling herself zinda lash, a living corpse:

 

“The courtesan is a totally romantic figure: a beautiful but tragic woman, who pours out her grief for the love she is denied in tears, poetry and dance. Yet although denied marriage and respectability, she is also a source of power. The courtesans in the film live in splendid buildings, which are decorated esquisitely. As Veena Oldenburg has pointed out, the courtesan achieved her material and social liberation by reversing constraints on women’s chastity and economic rights, succeeded through her combination of talent and education. The courtesans set up their own society within the kothas, where they inverted many of society’s rituals such as celebrating the birth of a girl like the birth of a boy in mainstream Indian culture.”

(Dwyer, op. cit., pp.125-28)

 

 

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1972 classic film on Lukcnow courtesans

The demise of the harem elsewhere also did not necessarily lead to an improvement in the lot of enslaved women. Sex slavery merely reinvented itself. The Ottoman Turks used slaves to staff brothels for the masses, which was understandable for any civilisation based upon slavery. The sultan’s harem was composed of girls sold into slavery of this female only world by their parents, or girls kidnapped by slave traders. When the imperial harem was closed down by the Young Turks in 1909, many of the Circassian women were reunited with their families, but on returning home continued their lives as prostitutes (Ringdal, op. cit., pp.309-11). The harem was inhabited by girls snatched from poor farming villages and its inmates were often brutalised by eunuch guards. This was a complex, dangerous, isolated and closed society (Elizabeth Abbot, Mistresses A History of the Other Woman, Duckworth Overlook, London, 2010., pp.54-55).

 

Polygamy was an accepted facet of Islamic society. However the number of wives and concubines kept by Ibn Saud astonished not only foreigners, but even his contemporary shaikhs. By 1953, this marital setup had resulted in this one man alone having produced forty-three sons and over fifty daughters. Ibn Saud confessed to having married over a hundred women, giving vent to an uninhibited lust for both women and conquest (Madawi al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp.75-6). The abolition of slavery in 1962 actually compelled former slaves into the sex trade as they now had no other means of support and income. Prostitution in Saudi Arabia therefore flourished after this date (Jan Goodwin, Price of Honour, Sphere, London, 2010, p.231).

Sometimes even the old slave-catching system did not change. It was even revived. During civil war in Sudan women and children have been deliberately targeted for sexual slavery (Jeremy Black, A Brief History of Slavery, Constable & Robinson, London, 2011, p.241). Most of the captives, as in Ottoman times, continue to be women. Rape was common during and after slave raids, and sexual service continued to remain the prime work of female black slaves to Arab masters:

“During the rule of al-Mahdi’s grandfather, a young concubine could fetch seven times as much as a cow. Though oversupply had reduced their market value, they continued to be prixed commodities. The Baggara had lower birth rates than the Dinka, and the sexual conquest was often a conscious attempt to steal their wombs. Some masters cut uncircumcised women to work the next morning. On occasion, masters even forced the girl slaves to endure infibulations.”

(E Benjamin Skinner, A Crime So Monstrous, Mainstream Publishing Company, Edinburgh, 2008, p.98)

 

Temporary ‘Marriage’

 

After the 1979 revolution in Iran, and the coup by the ayatollahs, former prostitutes of the Shahr-i-Nauv, the red-light district of Tehran, reformed as “Sisters of Zeinab”, a women’s group which supported the Islamic regime. With their former pimps these former sex workers cruised the streets in vehicles looking for women who were dressed in “un-Islamic” style. Punishments included having lipstick wiped with cotton wool containing razor blades and then forcing women to sign a document which stated “Man yek rúspí hastam”, or “I am a prostitute” (Mir Ali Assghar Montazam, Islám in Irán, Eurasia Press Limited, London, 2003, p.306). Kidnapping of females for supposed political crimes against the regime allowed their use as sex slaves by prison guards. Because it was considered against Islam to execute virgins, it was compulsory for Revolutionary Guards to rape girls before they could be executed (Montazam, pp.381-82) This system of temporary marriage or Mut’a would also ensure that virgins would not get to heaven. Banned by the Sunnis, Mut’a has been allowed by the Shia as an alternative to prostitution (Goodwin, op. cit., p.115). Also known as sigheh, temporary marriage to get round laws prohibiting fornication. Lord Curzon noticed the practice in 1892 as it was used by pilgrims to the Islamic holy cities of Marshad and Qom, and regarded it as religiously sanctioned prostitution. Since the revolution the use of this temporary marriage has increased by clerics to take advantage of much younger female students. During Friday prayers at the University of Tehran in November 1990, Rafsanjani tried to revive sigheh for young people to vent their sexual desires within an Islamic framework. He was opposed, especially by women who feared that the law would favour men. Elaine Sciolino of the New York Times:

“Despite the legality of sigheh in the Islamic Republic, it is unpopular among young people and that is not likely to change. . . . . Most Iranians I know regard the practice as little more than legalized prostitution, for sigheh is a public advertisement that a woman is not a virgin. And for many Iranian families, that makes her unmarriagable. Even illicit sex is considered better than sigheh – as long as the sex is kep secret.”

(Sciolino, op. cit., pp.126-28)

Khomeini revived the practice believing that it would solve the need for multiple sexual partners. In 1990 Rafsanjani said it was in accord with Islam. Yet it is widely used by sex workers. Prostitution itself has increased as the economy in Iran has shrunk. A looming AIDS crisis however is not being addressed by the ruling theocracy (Goodwin, op. cit., pp.115-16). Qom remains a vice hotspot. Female runaways sleep in rooms meant for pilgrims and resort to selling sex as the only means of survival. Yet it was not just Qom. By 2002 an estimated 85,000 prostitutes were at work in Iran where unemployment is rise and work therefore even harder to come by for women (John R Bradley, Behind the Veil of Vice, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2010, pp.84-85).

Sunnis scoff at this whole temporary marriage arrangement to satisfy the need for pre-marital sex. Yet the Saudis have their own version called misyar (visitor’s marriage) and urfi (customary marriage) for when they visit Egypt. These are also merely covers for prostitution and casual sex. Saudi men also travel to the Hijaz in order to conduct “holiday marriages” (John R Bradley, Behind the Veil of Vice, pp.51-58). In Indonesia they also enter into temporary marriages finding a large reservoir of poverty stricken Muslim women willing to enter such arrangements. This includes a dowry of a few hundred dollars which will not cover any offspring that may result. Others choose to make such arrangements among Muslims in India. Activist Jameela Nishat counsels such girls and says that Gulf Arabs prefer these temporary marriages with virgin teenage brides. In Egypt the Gulf Arabs often have second homes and pay between $500 and $1500 for girls who often end up as domestic servants (John R Bradley, Behind the Veil of Vice, pp.119-24)

 

Sex Tourism

 

Iran had negative influence on its neighbour and erstwhile enemy, the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Once seen as progressive on women’s rights, Saddam became more puritanically and piously Islamic in order to compete with Khomeini. From 1987 using Hummarabi’s code as precedent as well as Islam, the man was given absolute rights over his wife. Women’s rights were thus debased (Goodwin, op. cit., pp.246-47). But demographically Iran has had influence in quite the opposite sphere. Iranian prostitutes are in high demand in Dubai (Jim Krane, Dubai, Atlantic Books, London, 2009, p.215) The city has become the world’s largest forum for mongers, the sex tourists. In 2005 alone, the police there found freshly slaughtered and often mutilated corpses of prostitutes in the desert and rubbish skips. These included a strangled Uzbek, a throat slashed Ukrainian teenager, and a Bangladeshi maid thrown from a balcony, all for resisting sex slavery. A Bangladeshi maid in that period died from AIDS having been forced into prostitution (Skinner, op. cit., p.206). The city is a major centre for sex trafficking and one can easily find prostitutes in clubs, bars and hotels, with brothels operating from residential apartments or at the street level (Syed Ali, Dubai: Gilded Cage, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2010, p.3). In 2009 the US State Department said that the UAE is the most lax place for combating sex trafficking (Krane, op. cit., p.215). The female merchandise is often sold on to other pimps (Krane, p.217) As is usual in these matters women and girls have been tempted by offers of work as clerks and waitresses but find their passports confiscated by traffickers on arrival as they are sold off by trusted agents into the sex trade. Escape from pimps only leads to freelance prostitution. In fact prostitution is so rife that it is assumed that most women in Dubai are prostitutes or at least potentially selling sex and that all have their market price (Syed Ali, op. cit., pp.102-4). In addition many female expatriate workers moonlight as prostitutes (Krane, op. cit., p.216). Prostitution is illegal in Dubai, and sanctions against it include the death penalty. But enslavement of women and girls for sex is widespread, as E Benjamin Skinner discovered when he visited the emirate’s most notorious brothel, the Cyclone:

 

“In the club, no fewer than 500 prostitutes solicited a couple of dozen prospective clients, some Western servicemen among them.

I walked over to the bar, and two Korean girls, who looked no older than fifteen and claimed to be sisters, approached me.

‘Do you want a massage?’ one asked.

While the strobe lights, the loud music and the general whirlpool of anxious feminity lent an air of abject chaos, the place was carefully ordered by race. Stage left was crush of Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean women; centre stage were sub-Saharan Africans; stage right were Eastern European and Central Asian women, who initially identified themselves as Russians, but later revealed specifically that they were Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Uzbek and, of course, Molodovan.”

 

Skinner was told by a Chinese woman how she had been promised work as a maid, but snakeheads had sold her to a madam, forcing her to sell sex to pay off a debt. Alina had arrived from Romania to work as a waitress, but only on arrival in Dubai had her passport confiscated and was forced into prostitution at the Cyclone. Arab men were the most violent of clients, taking her to apartments and hotels for brutal rape, sometimes lasting two days. Even after manumission by her madam who returned to Romania, Alina felt compelled to stay and sell sex in order to provide for her young son. In another brothel, the York International Hotel, he met an Uzbek women forced to sell her body to pay off $10,000 or risk crime syndicates killing her children (Skinner, op. cit., pp.209-11). In 2005, for the director of the human rights section of the police, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Muhammad Abdullah al Mur, it was more important to remove prostitution from public view rather than alleviate the slavery prostitutes were forced to work in. A thousand foreign prostitutes were deported by the Dubai police as a result (Skinner, op. cit., p.213). Dubai cracks down on the female slaves, not the pimps and traffickers who force them to sell sex. Thousands of prostitutes are therefore regularly deported to South Asia, Africa, China and the former USSR (Syed Ali, op. cit., p.101). There are few places where the girls and women can run. The Indian consulate operates a secret shelter where forty women arrive monthly, mainly trafficked prostitutes and many have injured themselves when trying to escape. The City of Hope is a private shelter run by Emirati-American Sharla Musabih. Jim Krane:

 

“The shelter is a hard-luck place, home to broken women doing heir best to get over traumatic abuse. At the same time, they struggle to navigate the slow and complex Dubai legal system, seeking permission to leave the country. The two dozen women at the shelter come from Eastern Europe, Iran, India, Britain, and former Soviet Central Asia. Most come from Ethiopia. Few of the Ethiopians speak anything other than Amharic, and, until coming to Dubai, knew little beyond rural subistence. People from such backgrounds are easily manipulated.”

(Krane, op. cit., p.216)

Prosecutions are rare (Krane, op. cit., p.218). Dubai is seventy-five per cent male. The gender imbalance means that the emirate has to attract skilled expatriates by allowing the city to become the sex capital of the Middle East. Police therefore only crack down when the sex industry spills out embarrassingly into full view, thereby tarnishing Dubai’s carefully groomed image (Krane, op. cit., p.220). Hence despite the legal sanctions women are openly traded in a lucrative sex market (Syed Ali, op. cit., p.10). Prostitution is tolerated as just another facet of commerce (Syed Ali, op. cit., p.48) Emiratis actively help the sex trade by selling valuable work visas to the traffickers so that they can import new girls (Krane, op. cit., p.219). Being a commercial transit points for all sorts of goods, prostitution was of course not exactly new to Dubai. Yet even now the government needs the revenue raised by selling sex. Hotels earn huge profits from the vice trade which does not even stop during Ramadan. The only change is that the discos play no music as sex workers ply their trade. Syed Ali, is assistant professor of sociology at Long Island University who has done in depth research on life in Dubai. For his efforts he was deported:

“Today prostitution in Dubai has spread well beyond the Deira area; the entire city is rife with the trade, with prostitutes walking the street and working out of apartment brothels, to a United Nations of prostitution working in almost every hostel in the city. The presence of prostitutes in Dubai, some have argued, is critical for luring business travellers, leisure tourists and of course sex tourists, many of whom came from the Gulf states, the UK and elsewhere in Europe. These travellers fly on Emirates Airline, stay in five-star hotels, eat at restaurants and shop in the malls. One observer wring in 2005 made the controversial assertion that 30 per cent of Dubai’s economy was directly or indirectly based on vice.”

(Syed Ali, op. cit., pp.47-49)

European and American prostitutes are flown in on month long sex contracts. They are feted with paid for first class air flight, five star hotel stays and expensive jewellery. Attracted into an unofficial sex trade by the certainty of getting rich, these white female imports can command salaries of $30,000. By contrast cheaper darker-skinned Third World whores are needed to meet the needs of an overwhelmingly Asiatic workforce imported into the Gulf states on ‘bachelor visas’. For Arabs the sex traffic of clientele is reversed. Members of the Gulf’s master race regularly visit Bangkok to purchase sex. Yet any mention of AIDS in the UAE is banned (Goodwin, op. cit., pp.132-33). Saudis meanwhile prefer visiting Egypt for nightclubs and prostitutes, a country where veiling and other forms of pious Islamic observance increased since the presidency of Sadat. Nawal El-Sadawi meanwhile was jailed by Sadat for his prolific writing exposing prostitution, female genital mutilation, incest, sexually transmitted diseases and sexual exploitation. A qualified physician El-Sadawi has been continually oppressed by Mubarak’s state machinery and the opposition Islamists for daring to continue in his exposure of sexual exploitation, including writing on the subject of AIDS (Goodwin, op. cit., pp.330-32). The homeland of Wahhabism meanwhile needs an outlet for its sexual claustrophobia and this has been provided by Bahrain which since 1986 is only a drive away form the puritanical state. Since 1932 the island state has provided the much needed release valve for hypocritical male Saudis, helped by the oil boom. Manama has seen an explosion of foreign prostitutes in bars, hotels and discos (John R Bradley, Behind the Veil of Vice, pp.163-65).

 

Blaming the Victims of Rape

 

In Pakistan brothels are disguised as dancing schools, hotels or houses in respectable districts. Personal recommendation provides a constant stream of clients for working girls, or for the more affluent men, there continues to be the option of a second wife or mistress (Louise Brown, Sex Slaves, Virago Press, London, 2001, p.14) The extreme sexual repression and subservice of women found in Pakistan in fact increase the level of sexual slavery (Louise Brown, p.25). In 2000 University of Birmingham academic Louise Brown wrote on the subject:

“In sexually repressed societies the most unlikely places become the venue for selling sex. In Pakistan, for example, favourite spots include the waiting rooms of hospitals because these are places which women can legitimately visit. Or they are particular stretches of road – especially the ones with traffic lights to stop the cars and a few bushes for the sake of discretion. It is impossible for the uninitiated to identify a Pakistani brothel. They look like ordinary houses in ordinary streets. I was taken round and round residential districts in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi that were filled with brothels. Yet, until I was told, I could not identify the buildings were brothels and were family homes. Many guest houses and small hotels are brothels – but you have to be told this to know about it, and you have to be part of a local, inner circle in order to enjoy the services offered. The girls and young women inside these places cannot speak about what happens within their walls because some cannot get out. And those who can leave will not speak about selling sex because to do so would amount to social and, in some cases, physical suicide.” (Louise Brown, pp.14-15)

 

On of the side effects of restricting female freedom in Pakistan is the higher preponderance of boys as opposed to girls in the sex trade. Working as so called “assistants” in garages, on buses, truck stops, small restaurants and bathhouses, boys from the ages of ten to fourteen are used to attract the huge demand from adult male clients who many times cannot get access to girls and women. In fact male prostitution in Pakistan is unique in being a widespread phenomenon, in contrast to other parts of South Asia, where in fact, as with South-East Asia, male prostitutes are not as badly scorned as their female counterparts. Another difference is the lack of mass trafficking of male sex workers. Many boys turn to prostitution to supplement income from begging or earning low incomes in shops and factories (Louise Brown, pp.19-20) But of course for women they often have no choice even if they have not been actually kidnapped, enslaved and trafficked:

“In Pakistan I spent an evening at the home of a prostitute who is anything but a sex slave. She has her own house in the traditional red light district of Heera Mandi in Lahore and entertains a number of middle-class businessmen on a regular basis. She is not well-off but she makes an adequate living. She has few qualms about her trade. It is, she said, her choice to sell sex, and I believe that she has told me the truth. She seems contented and at peace – at least most of the time. She began to teach me some of the dances of a courtesan and how to jangle dozens of bracelets in just the right way and at just the right moment. She also taught me how to drink half a litre of vodka without passing out and how she had begun to sell sex when she was abandoned by her husband and left destitute with two babies to feed. This woman is in her mid-thirties. She is beautiful, but you can see the traces of wear on her face. She knows she is getting older. Some of her clients are not as attentive and as generous as they were and her income is beginning to decline. I asked her what she was going to do in the future and, as I did so, her two daughters ran into the room. One was about thirteen and a little plain and very quiet. The other was about eight and as pretty and as vivacious as her mother. This child will be her mother’s future and within a few years, prostitution will be her trade. She is being groomed to sell sex. Even as a child she is dressed like an adult sex worker. What kind of choice, I thought, did this mother and her young daughter really have?”

In Bangladesh prostitutes are either recruited by trusted people for the promise of a job or marriage, which would allow them to escape poverty. Marriage is also the main recruiting ground for prostitution in Pakistan. More conservative about sex than Bangladesh which has larger brothels and red light districts, these alternate tactics are used:

 

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Police beat up women protesting against Gen. Zia’s ‘Law of Evidence’, Lahore, 1983. Photo by Rahat Dar

 

“This is the way the system operates: when a Pakistani woman marries she becomes the property of her husband. The extent and implications of this ‘ownership’ very according to region, ethnicity and socio-economic class. Many wives are completely at the mercy of their husbands and this is particularly true of women from those areas in which a man will pay brideprice for his wife. What the businessmen of the sex trade do is to marry a woman and then pimp her out. What is more, they can legitimately have up to four of these wives. When the wife/prostitute becomes a little too old to attract customers she can be divorced and a new wife can be recruited.

In Heera Mandi, the ancient red light disctrict of Lahore, I interviewed a woman who had been a prostitute for many years and who had been owned and controlled by a series of men. As she aged she was rejected by her ‘husbands’ and was then picked up by another ‘husband’ who put her to work at a lower level on the prostitution hierarchy. She is now in her mid-fifties and is wracked by tuberculosis. She dresses in a tattered shalwar-kameez and lives in a tiny hovel of a room without water or electricity. In the darkness, and with a strategically placed candle, she tries to encourage clients to pay a pathetic handful of rupees for her services. Yet even now her new ‘husband’ continues to take his cut.”

(Louise Brown, op. cit., pp.66-8)

 

Pakistan has a flourishing industry of ‘dancing girls’, a euphemism for prostitution. Hired for stag nights and bachelor parties, girls are either sold or born into the profession. Girls sold to brothels as servants are initiated into taking clients from as young as nine or ten. Poverty and lack of job opportunities for women in particular forces girls into the sex trade. In Karachi, where eighty per cent of the sex workers have AIDS, poor families often abandon unwanted children. While unmarried mothers abandon the child of whatever sex, ninety per cent of abandoned infants are girls. These can make easy pickings of course for the sex trade. Even married women have to face beatings and even death for insufficient dowries. Contrast this with the hedonistic and un-Islamic lifestyle enjoyed by women in Pakistan’s ruling and professional elite where pornographic videos have liberated long repressed libidos. In an increasingly puritanical Islamic country, pimps easily evade or ignore stringent laws by bribing the police as they negotiate with clients over the price of flesh. Indeed the pimps may actually be able to target the most pious in their midst. Jan Goodwin:

 

“The most notorious of Pakistan’s red-light districts is Hira Mandi in Lahore, in the shadow of the historical Badshahi Mosque. Just as houses of prostitution were historically established close to cathedrals in Christian countries, brothels and prostitutes. Operate near mosques and shrines “where the crowds are” in Muslim countries.”

(Jan Goodwin, op. cit., pp.61-71)

 

Bangladeshi girls are sold as actual brides in Pakistan. However human rights lawyer Hina Jilani from Lahore has discovered that many Bangladeshi women trafficked into Pakistan in the 1980s and 90s were forced into prostitution, forced to live as slaves servicing clients in rural areas, or sold to older men once they cannot provide income for pimps.

 

“Clandestine auctions were held in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. Women and girls form the merchandise and are sold to the highest bidder. Ostensibly they are sold for marriage, and the auction process is explained as a simplified and quicker version of the traditional payment of brideprice. It is also cheaper. An argument used to rationalise the process is that hardworking men cannot afford to spend large amounts of time searching for a bride and negotiating the financial deal. An auction speeds up this process. It also has a singular advantage: the auctioned girls are highly vulnerable. No one is going to follow a purchased girl’s fate. These girls can be bought for any purpose. And, in practice, they are.”

(Louise Brown, op. cit., pp.78-9)

 

Bangladesh is a desperately poor country, and this makes conditions for sex slaves even worse:

 

“The physical conditions under which these women work are the worst I have ever seen. Quite simply they defy the imagination. Brothels are overcrowded and unsanitary. Street prostitution takes place in the gutter and the women do not even have a place to bathe and clean themselves.”

(Louise Brown, op. cit., p.99)

 

In Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Muslim communities of India, the dominant mother complex combined with gender segregation distorts relations between the sexes. In Pakistan especially, young men and women cannot have informal relationships:

 

“Women have to be hidden away to keep them quiescent and so that they cannot draw men into temptation, and a group of prostituted women has to be created, and simultaneously stigmatised, so that a man can have plenty of sex while appearing to be sexually abstinent or faithful to his wife (or wives). The Japanese may be the biggest spenders in the sex market but the Pakistanis are the biggest hypocrites.”

 

From five the Muslim boy leaves the segregated world of his mother and other women to the equally segregated all male world. With its competitiveness, more public, and strict hierarchical male world, the sense of male identity is very precarious and this lack of confidence is manifested by the need to prove machismo:

 

“For some men a fragile sense of masculinity may be bolstered by frequent  visits to prostitutes. Prostitution is necessary to keep the sex segregation system working and, ironically, prostitutes are also needed to provide sexual and emotional therapy to those men, who, at least superficially, benefit from these distorted forms of human relations.”

(Louise Brown, op. cit., pp.151-2)

 

 

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Women at a demonstration in Karachi, 2006, against Zia’s Hudood laws. Photo: Anjum Naveed

The strict Islamic laws in Pakistan which discriminate against women, victimise prostitutes worst of all. The Hudood Ordinances introduced by Zia ul-Haq in 1979 included the Zina law which outlawed any fornication, blamed women for rape claiming they had committed adultery. This covered of course covers prostitutes:

“In other words, women are incarcerated for having sex with a man who is not their husband. Many of the women I spoke to were prostitutes. But this was a fact they  flatly denied. The women commonly described their alleged customers as being a ‘friend’ of their ‘husband’ who had come to the house to do some ‘painting’. Either there are a lot of keen decorators in Karachi or the women need to think up more varied and convincing alibis. Two crucial points need to be made in relation to this. First, if women cannot admit they are prostitutes then they also cannot seek help when dreadful abuses are perpetrated upon them. Even a sex slave cannot easily seek help because she risks being charged with Zina. Second, lots of prostitutes are arrested, charged and convicted while, at the same time, the men who buy them are either not arrested, fail to be charged or receive less severe punishments. We should expect nothing else: sexually wayward men in Pakistan are not to be condemned. They are the otherwise pious victims of women’s deadly sexuality.”

 

Therefore Bangladeshi sex slaves trafficked into Pakistan were treated as criminals not victims. While these women found themselves in prison, men were conspicuous by their absence. The anti-female nature of Zina laws meant that clients, pimps, brothel owners and traffickers were conspicuous by their absence in prison (Louise Brown, op. cit., pp.192-3). Victims of rape are often drawn into prostitution because they have brought shame on the family and dishonoured themselves, hence no longer material for marriage. The most nauseating factor in this mindset is that even child rape victims are tarred in this manner. This reinforces the tendency for families to hush up any of their girls’ involvement in prostitution rather than take action against pimps and traffickers (Louise Brown, op. cit., pp.198-9). Rape is used in Pakistan as a weapon to demonstrate power. It was used to politically intimidate Veena Hayat, a close friend of Benazir Bhutto. Nurses are raped in hospital by patients who have powerful political connections. But it is mostly in the hands of feudal lords and bloodsucking employers that rape is used as an expression of raw oppression. Majida Abdullah was eleven years old when she was abducted by her father’s employers, owners of a brick kiln which used bonded labour. Her father owed money and as a result Majida was held for two months and repeatedly raped. After her release she was charged with zina and jailed (Goodwin, op. cit., pp.52-54).

 

In more liberal Bangladesh, prostitution is legal if the female sex worker is above eighteen. Magistrates sign their affidavit which verifies the date of birth, and which is retained by the brothel owner, who then charge the sex worker with the costs of the document. It is also open to much abuse, and girls as young as twelve have these affidavits. Laws again do not help the women very much (Louise Brown, op. cit., pp.193-4). In a disturbing account, Louise Brown describes a very poignant scenes she witnessed:

 

“One of the most gut-wrenching episodes I encountered took place in a narrow, dirt road in Bangladesh. It was so shocking because it made me appreciate the powerlessness of individuals to affect a vast trade. I had stopped to talk to street-based sex workers. They were extremely poor and haggard women who had been child prostitutes in closed brothels but who had long since been expelled when they had approached their early twenties. A ragged women and a thin girl of about nine held onto my shalwar kameez as I left. The women pushed her daughter forward and I could see the desperation in the girl’s eyes. The mother said very quietly, ‘Please help us or my own girl will become like me. Ask people in your country to help us. Will your book help me? What can you do to help my girl?’ I did not have the courage to say that there was nothing I could do to help. Her daughter is doomed to a life of prostitution.”

(Louise Brown, op. cit., pp.254-5)

 

Unveiling the Sordid Reality

Muhammad Ali’s modernisation of Egypt broke up many families as men were compelled into national service through the military or forced labour. This forced women to provide for their families by working in the harsh conditions which prevailed in the new factories, and the alarming rise in prostitution during the 1830s. The authorities feared the spread of resultant disease and hence banned the sex trade in urban centres in 1834 (Khalid Fahmy, The era of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha, 1805-1848, in MW Daly (Editor), The Cambridge History of Egypt Volume Two, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p.163-64). Nickie Roberts, former sex worker:

“Even now there exists in the Upper Nile region of Egypt a nomadic tribe of women who combine the ancient traditional skills of the entertainment-prostitute: known as the Ghawazee, they are regarded by Egyptians as the world’s finest exponents of Arabic dance. These women are perhaps the direct descendants of the original priestesses who were cast out of the temples of ancient Egypt.”

(Nickie Roberts, Whores in History, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 1992, p.8)

 

These al-ghawazi were predominantly from gypsy tribes while prostitutes called al-jawari were originally designated slave girls. Following the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, the Ministry of Interior issued a nine-article edict regulating the relationship between prostitutes and the authorities. In 1885 it issued an ordinance on brothels and in 1896 the government passed a comprehensive law governing all aspects of the practice of this profession. In 1905 brothels could only be established in certain areas designated by the governor or chief of a provincial directorate and they could have no more than one entrance. Women working in these establishments had to be at least 18 years old and undergo a medical examination once a week at a designated health office (Dr Yunan Labib Rizk, Back Roads, 7-13 June 2001, Al-Ahram, http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/537/chrncls.htm ). In 1949 King Farouk closed the state-licensed brothels. Taking power in a military coup three years later, General Nasser outlawed prostitution altogether in order to pacify the Muslim Brotherhood and cleanse Egypt of all ‘foreign’ influence. In the 1980s radicalisation of Islam led to attacks on belly-dancing nightclubs and other such displays. John R Bradley, journalist and author on the Middle East writing in 2010:

 

“While Tunisian women basically walk the streets free of hassle, Egyptian women suffer more abuse and harassment than women in any other Arab country, indeed, perhaps in the world. According to the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, in 2009 some 98 percent of foreign women, and 83 percent of Egyptian women, said they had experienced sexual harassment…..Unlike in Tunis, prostitutes can be found in all middle-class districts of Cairo, but especially those that are home to the Egyptian elite and holidaying Gulf Arabs, and I know from my years of living in Egypt that they are given to wearing the niqab (a garment covering the whole face with two eyeholes and severely discouraged in Tunisia. Whereas the Tunisian authorities have taken measures in nightclubs and discos to contain soliciting for sex, one is never more than a few hundred metres from an East European hooker in the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh, Taba, and Hurghada, and the Egyptian authorities are reduced to rounding them up and announcing their mass deportation. And whereas Tunisia has tackled the AIDS issue so successfully that it is statistically minuscule in the country, in 2010 Egypt reported a sixfold increase in the number of cases, and yet is still, after more than two decades, dithering about whether it should treat seriously the threat the virus poses.”

John R Bradley, Behind the Veil of Vice, p.66)

 

Bradley lauded the progressive view on women’s rights taken by Bourguiba and how Tunisia continued the French and indeed Ottoman practice of regulating vice through taxation and regular health check ups. Even abortion was legalised (Bradley, Veil of Vice, pp.51-58) Yet after the Jasmine Revolution radical Islamic gangs raised the brothels in areas such as Guech Street in Tunis and demanded that all brothels be closed (John R Bradley, Sex, brothels and the REAL tyranny threatening the Arab world: Islamic fundamentalists are already imposing their own brutal puritanism, 26 February 2011, Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1360799/Sex-brothels-REAL-tyranny-threatening-Arab-world.html).

 

Women are often said to be safer in Arab cities than in western urban areas, but risk negative attention and abuse if they are alone. This is but one by-product of social norms which put constraints and inhibitions on free mixing between the sexes (Gerald Butt, The Arabs, IB Tauris Publishers, London, 1997, pp.236-37). In Egypt economic desperation has led young men to seek marriage with older white women from western countries. The targets are mainly female tourists in prime areas such as Luxor or the Red Sea resorts. Other times young men will merely just hire themselves out for sex (John R Bradley, Inside Egypt, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2008, p.181). With their open displays of affection Arab men see western women as available for sexual conquest (Gerald Butt, op. cit., pp.235-36). Yet even marriage, often with the white woman as an additional spouse to an already existing Egyptian wife, if little more than glorified prostitution by the men. The western woman, usually aged in her fifties or sixties, with basic education, and often an English divorcee, offers the Egyptian man an avenue towards undreamt of wealth. He has little chance of escaping the poverty trap. Therefore marriage or hired sex with an older western woman offers the way out as she becomes a surrogate welfare state (Bradley, Inside Egypt, pp.183-86). John R Bradley:

 

“Single Western women travelling through or studying in Egypt, and Western women who have met and married Egyptian men in more normal circumstances (as fellow students at college, say, or as work colleagues in the same office), deeply resent these English grannies who prowl the streets of Luxor, Sharm Al-Sheikh, Hurghada, and other resorts in search of street meat, The reason is that they tend to give all Western women a reputation for being fair game, even though it is technically the Egyptian men who are the prostitutes since they are the ones who are paid for their services.”

 

And it is not just western woman. Luxor has gained notoriety as a western gay hotspot (Bradley, Inside Egypt, p.191). Bradley:

 

“Sit in a coffee shop where you are not known, and within minutes you will be surrounded by local youths wanting to know if you are married and, if they discover you are not, whether you would like to take one of them back to your apartment. Go to the public swimming pool and the teens walking past will gesture at their lower bodies with a filthy smirk: an invitation to give them a blow job, for the right price. Tuned into the latest tourist trends, they all know about that gay-themed web sites and the places preposterously listed on them as “gay cruising areas” (as though there is anywhere in Luxor not a gay cruising area). If you happen to pass by one of these venues, it is immediately assumed that you are looking for a pickup. Even if you tell the leering and jeering boys to take a run and jump in Arabic, at least one (and usually more) will follow you for what feels like an eternity in the hope that sooner or later you will turn and make conversation. If you rent an apartment, you had better tell the doorman on the first day that under no circumstances is he to let anyone in who claims to be a friend, otherwise there will be a constant thundering on the door from a succession of youths, each trying his luck.”

(Bradley, Inside Egypt, p.196)

 

This is male prostitution pure and simple, created by poverty and exploitation of the situation by western sex tourists. Impoverishment ensures that Luxor’s male whores are aggressive, exploitative while they themselves are heavily exploited (Bradley, Inside Egypt, p.222). Tribal custom is obsessed with protecting female honour. That means defending female virginity. Hence homosexual relationships are the only acceptable form of sex before marriage. But it must be done within strict confines and the boy must never actually enjoy the role of passive partner. Therefore sex between male youth is common in places such as Luxor. Into this mileau the entrance of western tourists indulging in such liaisons has been accepted under the guise of ‘friendship’. The shameless opportunism and lack of dignity for a generation which had grown up under Mubarak led to this gay tourism where Egyptian boys are willing to sell sex to older, wealthier western men ((Bradley, Inside Egypt, pp.195-96).

 

Since the Kemalist revolution Turkey is touted as a modern secular Muslim state. On paper at least women enjoy equal rights in most spheres. Prostitution is in fact legal and regulated. The government licenses brothels, known as “general houses,” and issues prostitutes identity cards that give them rights to some free medical care and other social services (Craig C Smith, Turkey’s Sex Trade traps Slavic Women, 27 June 2005, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/26/world/europe/26iht-turkey.html?_r=1).

James Pettifer has reported on events regarding Turkey in a journalistic capacity, as well being professor on Balkan studies at the University of Thessalonika. He found that women’s rights in Turkey were largely confined the more affluent sections of society. But for those mired in poverty and where Ataturk’s secularisation policies have made little impact, selling sex offers a way out of a depressing cycle of no hope:

 

“For the respectable poor, a life of procreation and hard poorly paid work is all that is on offer; for the very poor, only appalling drudgery and degradation. It is not suprising, therefore, that the old Gladstonian metaphor for Istanbul life – sexual corruption and exploitation – still applies in the ‘lower depths’. Straightforward prostitution and the myriad mansions of the Istanbul sex industry offer a way out, of a kind, and hundreds if not thousands of girls take it every year. It may have none of its old glamour, but for some women it is a great deal better than the sweat-shop or early marriage and a child every year.”

(James Pettifer, The Turkish Labyrinth, Pengion Books, London, 1997, pp.46-7)

 

But now Turkey has become a major trafficking hub as young women from Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are brought in to meet domestic demand as well as being sold on to pimps in Western Europe, often with the usual enticement of real jobs by criminal networks.

(Craig C Smith, Turkey’s Sex Trade traps Slavic Women, 27 June 2005, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/26/world/europe/26iht-turkey.html?_r=1)

 

The Preacher and the Pole Dancer

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British newspaper reveals how the daughter of deported radical Islamic cleric is a stripper

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was the author of the constitution for India after it achieved independence. He is well known for striving his entire life in working against he caste system which had blighted his life well into adulthood. Yet in 1946 he made these observations:

 

“There can thus be no manner of doubt that the Muslim Society in India is affected by the same social evils as afflict the Hindu Society. Indeed, Muslims have all the social evils of the Hindus and something more. That something more is the compulsory system of purdah for Muslim women.”

 

Ambedkar decries the segregation which women are subjected to, concluding that it cannot have anything but a negative psychological impact on them, as well as physical ailments such as anaemia and brittle bones:

 

“The physical and intellectual effects of purdah are nothing as compared with its effects on morals. The origins of purdah lies of course in the deep-rooted suspicion of sexual appetites in both sexes and the purpose is to check them by segregating the sexes. But far from achieving the purpose, purdah has adversely affected the morals of Muslim men. Owing to purdah a Muslim man has no contact with any woman outside those who belong to his own household. Even with them his contact extends only to occasional conversation. For a male there is no company of and no commingling with the females except those who are children or aged. This isolation of the males from females is sure to produce bad effects on the morals of men. It requires no psychoanalyst to say that a social system which cuts off all contact between the two sexes produces an unhealthy tendency towards sexual excesses and unnatural and other morbid habits and ways.”

(BR Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India, Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1990 (originally 1946), pp.230-31)

 

Ambedkar’s words ring true now more than ever. I recall being at a rally some years ago in London when al-Muhajiroun made it a regular feature to turn up and denounce the degeneracy of what they saw as western civilisation, especially the sexual depravity that made all women dress like whores. From his makeshift pulpit the now deported Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohamed railed against all sorts of fornication that apparently was lurking on every street corner. Actually at one point it was lurking in his very own house, at least in the embryonic stages. On 27 December 2008 the Daily Mail revealed that Bakri’s own daughter was a 26-year old single mother working in strip clubs. Yasmin Fostock was touring as a ‘podium’ dancer with a troupe called Ibiza Untouched as well as enjoying serial sexual liaisons, partying, drinking and dancing with half her clothes off. Bakri had himself paid the £4,000 in cash to a clinic in London for his daughter’s breast enlargement that launched her career as a pole dancer (Michael Seamark, Emily Andrews, Revealed: Radical cleric Bakri’s Pole-Dancing Daughter, 27 September 2008, Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1062375/Revealed-Radical-cleric-Bakris-pole-dancer-daughter.html). Is any more proof needed that radical Islam is intellectually bankrupt when it claims to offer a superior alternative to ways of life it denounces under the blanket term of kufr. The unnatural state of gender relations it engenders could not even keep its most radical spokesman from preventing his own daughter from casting off the claustrophobic mindset and attire which it engendered. The irony could therefore not be more poignant as Fostock has ended up as just another victim and psychological wreck from the very ideology which was supposed the viable alternative of a supposedly ‘degenerate’ West. But instead of being poles apart from that very vice, she has become an active participant.

 

In Case You Missed It:  The Purge Has Begun. Where It Stops, Nobody Knows.
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