Albanian gangsters kidnapping women and girls to service troops

Kosovo has not been part of the Eastern European sex trade that has flourished since the collapse of communism, but the lure of a 45,000-strong army has made it a new business.

Published February 9, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Kosovo has known horrendous atrocities as ethnic minorities and
NATO troops battled for supremacy of the region. Now a new victim
has emerged in this cursed country: sex slaves. Young women
kidnapped from Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and other
impoverished Eastern European nations are being forced by
Albanian gangsters to prostitute themselves to foreign soldiers
and businessmen in seedy nightclubs springing up around Kosovo,
reports the London Times.

Last week Italian police rescued 12 women -- some as young as 16
-- from Nightclub International, located near the headquarters of
the Russian forces outside Pristina. The women claimed they had
been abused and sold several times to different owners as they
were smuggled from their homelands to Kosovo. At Nightclub
International they provided sexual favors to Russian and American
troops at a cost of about $48 for 30 minutes.

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) in Pristina
estimates that there are "thousands of girls who are now
prisoners in the European sex trade."

While British troops are subject to a strict "no walking out"
policy and not permitted in such bars, American, Russian and
Italian soldiers are less closely monitored and have easier
access to the brothels proliferating across the province.

International agencies trying to assist the enslaved women are
overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. The Albanian pimps
are also dangerous. Staff members at the IOM were threatened after the
Italians confiscated the 12 girls because the Mafia-style gangs
viewed the women as their "property."

The sex merchants were enraged because they had paid from $1,597
to $2,237 for each of the girls, plus they retained half the cash
from every trick and another 10 percent for the girls' room and
board. The unhappy hookers have the option to buy back their
freedom with the remaining fraction, but in actuality they end up
with little or nothing, said an IOM official.

Kosovo girls are also unsafe because flesh-traders can eliminate
costly fees to distant middlemen if they successfully abduct
regional girls. Several teenagers have vanished recently; the
resulting panic emptied the province's streets after dark.

By Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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