Cyprus is a small island located in the eastern Mediterranean. History has seen many groups fight over, occupy and be driven from this island.
This historical turmoil has left Cyprus ethnically and religiously divided. The last major conflict and change occurred in 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island.
To this day, there is a United Nations buffer zone dividing the island into two territories. The south of the island is the Republic of Cyprus, where its nationals are Greek-speaking Cypriots. The north of the island is an area controlled by Turkey, known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Human Trafficking Situation in North Cyprus
Human trafficking occurs at an alarming rate in North Cyprus. According to the U.S. State Department’s “2020 Trafficking in Persons Report,” human traffickers exploit both domestic and foreign victims in Cyprus.
According to the State Department, Turkey proclaimed northern Cyprus to be the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in 1983, an entity that is not recognized by the United States or any other country other than Turkey. While the island of Cyprus is listed as a Tier One country in the State Department’s report, the State Department would assign Northern Cyprus the rank of Tier Three if it is were recognized as a separate country in Cyprus.
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However, the State Department says that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and its authorities do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Nightclubs in Northern Cyprus Double as Brothels
Sex trafficking is a major problem in Northern Cyprus. According to the Globe Post Media, nightclubs in Northern Cyprus are strip clubs that double as brothels, which include women who work at the nightclubs. Some of these women are working in the clubs on a voluntary basis; others are not.
The Globe Post Media notes that female human trafficking victims are forced to “hand over their passports to police when they enter the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and are required to undergo weekly checkups at state hospitals.” Globe Post Media further explains that women handing over their passports to police was originally for the purpose of preventing potential abuse by employers, but it presents a major problem for these women who are not able to freely travel out of Northern Cyprus due to needing identification at the South Cyprus border.
In addition, Globe Post Media reports that these women are not permitted “to leave the premises of the club or their adjacent living quarters unless it is to accompany a man to his hotel room.” Globe Post Media estimates that “casinos and nightclubs may account for 40% of the local budget.”
A More Personal View of Human Trafficking in Northern Cyprus
Recently, I met with a humanitarian worker for a non-governmental organization (NGO) who lives in Northern Cyprus and works in anti-trafficking. My source asked that I don’t use her name for her protection and explained the dire circumstances involving sex trafficking in Northern Cyprus.
She noted that “although the exact number fluctuates regularly, there are consistently between 30-40 of these nightclubs operating openly. The majority of these women are from Eastern Europe, with representation from Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Women are recruited online to work as barmaids or hostesses, and upon arrival to Northern Cyprus, have their passports confiscated by police ‘for their protection.’
“Shortly thereafter, they are informed that they will be forced to perform commercial sex acts, not wait tables. The TRNC government is aware of what is happening. In fact, multiple nightclubs are owned by members of Parliament.”
To End Human Trafficking, More Investigation into Areas Like North Cyprus Is Needed
As human trafficking is gaining global attention, it is important that areas such as North Cyprus are identified and investigated. Currently, I am conducting research into the problem of sex trafficking in Northern Cyprus. Anyone with information about the situation in Northern Cyprus or wishes to take action is welcome to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.