Iran Focus: Bam, Sep. 30 – Nine months after a devastating earthquake that left behind over 50,000 people dead and more than 90,000 homeless, a new specter is haunting the
wretched survivors of that natural disaster. Human trafficking has become a booming business, as orphaned girls and the children of impoverished families are being picked up by organized crime gangs. Iran Focus

Iran, Bam, Sep. 30 – Nine months after a devastating earthquake that left behind over 50,000 people dead and more than 90,000 homeless, a new specter is haunting the wretched survivors of that natural disaster. Human trafficking has become a booming business, as orphaned girls and the children of impoverished families are being picked up by organized crime gangs.

Girls and single women between the ages of 15 and 25 were the biggest victims of the tremor in Bam. Back in December and January, foreign aid workers complained that the Iranian authorities were discriminating against women and girls, giving men priority in the distribution of aid and medical supplies.

A social worker who has spent the past few months tending to bereaved families said: “At present the number of old men marrying girls under the age of 20 has soared. Many girls are sold in ‘a black market’. Many more are forced to marry men 3 or 4 times their age out of poverty. It is the only way that they can sustain their families.”

Another aid worker said the government has been acting inadequately to re-designate people. He said that at present the population in central Bam has more than doubled since the earthquake struck, as people in nearby villages have nowhere else to turn to for help.

The relief worker, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of persecution, said: “Drug addiction has rapidly spread everywhere, especially among young girls and women. The government hasn’t taken any action. Something needs to be done about this.”

Many social obstacles remain, and life has not come back to normal in the city of Bam. Many who have lost their loved ones, including small children say that that there is no one there to help them.

The regime’s state-run press quoted Dr. Mostafa Tabrizi, a respected psychiatrist in Bam, as saying: “The trauma left on the young women is increased because of a lack of healthy social environment. The physical pain that they also have to bear also adds to their stress.”

The aftermath of the earthquake has provided fertile grounds for human traffickers. Often working in collusion with corrupt local officials or, in the case of larger organized crime gangs, having ties to influential figures in Tehran, the traffickers work with impunity as they spot the girls and women in Bam and the outlying towns and villages and take them away to other cities, to be sold to wealthy old men looking for young concubines, or sent abroad, often to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.