Prostitutes and their customers are flocking to
Sulaimaniyah from across Iraq.
Business has been brisk for Nasreen, a prostitute
and a pimp, since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The easing of travel restrictions that allows Arabs
to travel more freely to Kurdish areas - which are
considered to be safer than other parts of the
country - has brought more prostitutes and customers
to the north.
“Before, we could hardly find four to five
customers,” said Nasreen, who declined to give her
real name. “But now we have some prostitutes who can
find 30 men a day.”
Nasreen is part of a network of 73 prostitutes for
whom she sometimes acts as a pimp, taking half of
what they earn. Most are poor and unemployed, she
said, and earn 1,000-25,000 dinars (70 US cents to
18 dollars) per customer, depending on the client as
government officials and rich businessmen pay more.
“Loss of hope in life and poverty have led us to
prostitution,” said Nasreen.
Nasreen’s network submitted a petition to the Iraqi
Kurdistan interior ministry asking for help in
finding jobs so they could give up prostitution.
They have not received any response so far.
Major Muhammed Tahir, a section commander in the
Sulaimaniyah police, acknowledged that prostitution
is on the increase as Arab prostitutes come to the
area from central and southern regions of the
Recently, a group of six Kurdish and Arab women were
arrested as part a government crackdown on
prostitution. Security forces are also trying to
combat its spread by trying to stop women from
traveling on their own, though there is no official
rule preventing them from doing so.
“We are trying to prevent prostitution, because it
has bad consequences for our society,” said Tahir.
But others in the police force believe the reports
of a rapid increase in prostitution are exaggerated
“Although prostitution is carried out secretly, we
are able to control it,”said Sulaimaniyah police
chief Major General Rizgar Aziz
Nasreen said many policemen are part of the problem
as they ask the prostitutes they arrest to have sex
“We are the most underprivileged group in the
community,” she said.
Roonak Faraj, a programme manager at the Women’s
Cultural and Media Centre who is conducting a study
on prostitution, said there was an urgent need for
“If attempts are not made to control the phenomenon,
we fear that AIDS will spread, because sexual
awareness is very weak here,” said Faraj.
Frman Abdul-Rahman is an IWPR trainee in