Desert Nights: Trafficking of Armenian Women

On June 22, the documentary film “Desert Nights,” which examines the Armenian sex trade industry of Dubai and Armenia, premiered in Yerevan at the Naregatsi Cultural Center. The film was produced by Hetq and directed by Edik Bagdasarian, who is the editor-in-chief of “Hetq Online” and is an established investigative documentary filmmaker in Armenia. It was also televised for the first time on Yerkir Media last night. The film is the companion piece to a 12-part series of investigative articles, published earlier this year in “Hetq Online” and “Aravot” daily newspaper.

Edik Bagdasarian, who is originally from Shushi in Karabagh, and Ara Manoogian, a fellow Armenian-American who divides his life and work between Martuni, Karabagh and Yerevan, worked on the story for over a year from 2003 to late 2004. The film depicts Armenian women being seen on the streets and in the hotels of Dubai hooking, and many of them were filmed using a hidden camera. Many women agreed to be interviewed or were interviewed secretly.

Although some women work in prostitution of their own will there, many were actually tricked and brought to Dubai through an intricate trafficking network co-based in Yerevan and Dubai, most of the players of which being Armenian, even involving both UAE and Armenian authorities. Two women from Tanzania are also featured. All of the victims of trafficking are treated severely, enduring beatings and forcibly committing sex up to a dozen times a day or more, having been put into financial debt by their Armenian pimps.

The film and series of articles are very well done, brilliantly portraying a depraved, wholly illegal business that has ruined the lives of countless Armenian women, although speculated to number in the thousands. Not surprisingly, Edik commented during the Q&A session film that the trafficking situation in Turkey is far worse. And both the film and series of articles destroys the self-imposed image of Armenians being morally righteous, devout Christians, and so forth.

As a result of the investigation, Ara Manoogian is currently working on a project to save Armenian victims of trafficking. His blog can be found by clicking here.

To read the series of articles in English, which I am currently re-proof editing and in one case re-translating for purposes of proper legibility, click here.

To read the series of articles in Armenian (note: you need Armenian fonts installed on your computer to do so) click here.


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