Victims' Stories

The victims’ testimonies included in this report are meant to be representative only and do not include all forms of trafficking that occur. These stories could take place anywhere in the world and illustrate the many forms of trafficking and the wide variety of places in which they occur. No country is immune. Many of the victims’ names have been changed in this report. Most uncaptioned photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims, but they show the myriad forms of exploitation that define trafficking and the variety of cultures in which trafficking victims are found.


Azade, 22, left rural Azerbaijan to work at a massage parlor in Baku. But the massage parlor was a cover for a brothel. Soon after she arrived, a client who worked for the brothel owner forced himself on Azade and threatened to show a videotape of the assault to her father unless she engaged in prostitution at the brothel. Fearing the social stigma attached to rape and the consequences of bringing shame to her family, Azade submitted to several months of forced prostitution before she escaped with the help of an anti-trafficking NGO.

Mali - Cote d’Ivoire

Ibrahim, 11, dreamed of buying a bicycle. When a man he had known for some time told him that he could work on a cocoa farm and make enough money for a bicycle, radio, clothes and more, Ibrahim didn’t suspect the man to be a trafficker. The man took Ibrahim to Cote d’Ivoire and sold him to a cocoa farmer. Ibrahim and other trafficked boys worked long hours doing back-breaking and dangerous work farming cocoa and bananas. The farmer gave them little to eat, beat them severely, and forbade them from leaving the farm. Ibrahim suffered in forced labor for two years before he escaped and returned to Mali. He now works in a market garden but still doesn’t earn enough to buy a bicycle.


Jayati and her husband were bonded laborers at a rice mill in India for more than 30 years. From 2 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, they separated and boiled rice, often suffering burns, injuries and illnesses. The owner of the mill threatened to hurt them if they tried to leave. Their children were forced to quit school and work alongside them in the mill. Their grandchildren were born into bonded servitude. In 2005, Jayati and her family were finally freed with the help of NGOs and local authorities. “I never dreamt of a day like this in my life,” she said after being freed.


Waleed, 45, was a bonded brick kiln worker until he was freed in 1997 by a historic Supreme Court decision that deemed bonded labor illegal. But he found it difficult to adjust to a life of freedom, not knowing how to support his family of six. Work at the kiln was the only life his family knew. So they went back. Ten years later, Waleed is once again in bondage, having accumulated more than $700 in debt. He, his wife, two young daughters, son, and daughter-in-law all work as brick makers. Together they make 2,000 bricks a day, for which they are paid $3. To cover their daily expenses—including food, electricity for a single 60-watt light bulb, and medical care for frequent mosquito-borne illnesses—the family takes more loans from the kiln owners and continues working to repay their debts.


Dilara’s sister had been tricked into an unregistered marriage to a trafficker who later abandoned her when she got pregnant. When Dilara confronted her sister’s traffickers, she herself became a victim. She ended up in Turkey, where she and other abducted girls were tortured and forced to engage in prostitution. Dilara escaped with the help of Turkish police, who promptly arrested the nine men who trafficked Dilara and her sister. She then approached a local NGO for legal aid and counseling. The NGO also helped Dilara learn computer programming and find employment with a company in Baku.

The Balkans

When Julia was 8, a man took her and her sisters to a neighboring country and forced them to beg on the streets until their early teens, when he sold them into prostitution. Julia’s traffickers expected her to bring in a certain amount of money each day or face beatings. At 14, Julia ran away, eventually coming under the supervision of local authorities. They placed her in an orphanage where she was not allowed to go to school due to her undocumented status. After a few months, Julia ran away from the orphanage and became involved with a pimp who prostituted her to local men and tourists. Recently, Julia was arrested on narcotics charges. She will likely spend the next two years in a juvenile prison, where she will finally learn to read and write.


Matheus was born and raised in one of the poorest backlands of Brazil. For the 39-year-old farmhand, the opportunity to work at a charcoal production site in the Amazon region was too good to miss. But the reality he faced at the work site was far from the opportunity he expected. The workers drank from the same river used by cattle. Smoke from the charcoal furnace stung their eyes all day and made it difficult to sleep at night. They knew the owners had weapons, and they feared the consequences of trying to escape. When anti-slavery activists arrived at the site, they found Matheus and 10 other workers disheveled, wearing torn trousers, filthy T-shirts, and rubber flip-flops.

Democratic Republic of The Congo

Lucien was studying at school when members of a militia group abducted him and 11 other boys from his secondary school. The soldiers drove them to a training camp and put them in a pit in the ground. Those who resisted were beaten. Lucien was stabbed in the stomach and tied up until he submitted to the training. Lucien endured difficult training with some 60 other children, including a number of girls. They were fed one plate of maize meal a day to share among 12 people. Lucien watched people die from starvation and illness. When the soldiers killed those who tried to escape, they forced Lucien and other children to bury the bodies. Lucien later managed to escape and now lives with a host family.


Rania signed a contract she couldn’t read and set off to earn money as a cleaner in Cyprus. But when she arrived, an agent told her she was going to work in a cabaret, have drinks with customers, and have sex with them if they wanted. She resisted and asked to be sent home but was told she had to repay her travel expenses first. Rania was raped. It was her first sexual experience. She knew if she returned to Morocco, her brother, a strict Muslim, would kill her for having sex before marriage and for damaging the family’s reputation. When she finally ran away, social workers took Rania to a government shelter for victims of sexual exploitation. While police investigated the case, Rania stayed in Cyprus and worked as a cleaner.


Xiao Ping, 20, had spent most of her life in her small village in Sichuan Province. She was thrilled when her new boyfriend offered to take her on a weekend trip to his hometown. But her boyfriend and his friends took her instead to a desert village in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and sold her to a farmer to be his wife. The farmer imprisoned Xiao Ping, beat her, and raped her for 32 months. In that time Xiao Ping grew depressed and homesick, and she became pregnant and had a son. Xiao Ping’s family borrowed a substantial sum to pay for her rescue, but the farmer’s family forced her to leave behind her 6-month-old baby. To cancel the debts, Xiao Ping married the man who provided the loan. But her husband regarded her as “stained goods,” and the marriage did not last.

Southeast Europe

A man trafficked for labor exploitation explains: “I once fainted and the owner took me to the hospital. There the doctor asked me why I didn’t have any registration. I told him that my owner didn’t let me leave the territory I worked. He seemed to have understood the situation I got into… I felt safe at that moment. I thought I would stay there for a long time and I would be able to go home… I was there for three days. On the third day the doctor told me that the treatment was over and the costs were covered by a charity organization. When I went out of the hospital, I saw my owner waiting for me.”


When Mya, 59, and her husband feared for their lives in Burma, they fled and took refuge in Malaysia. One night, when her husband was at work, Malaysian officials raided Mya’s home and took her to a local police station. For five days, groups of Chinese and Malay officers beat her violently, deprived her of food, and demanded to know where her husband was. A judge sentenced Mya to five months in prison for entering Malaysia illegally. Mya endured abusive conditions in both prison and immigration detention camps before she and other refugees were deported and sold to a Burmese man along the way. Those who could not repay the trafficker were sold to fish trawlers, into prostitution, or to be maids.


Nila and Miram, ages 20 and 22, traveled from rural Uzbekistan to India to work for a fashion design company after hearing a friend’s stories of lavish parties and unending wealth. But once they arrived, their passports were taken and they were told they would not be designing clothing but instead servicing clients at various luxury hotels. Indian authorities eventually discovered the sex trafficking ring. The women returned to Uzbekistan and received necessary victim care and rehabilitative assistance from a shelter.


In Cambodia, Phirun worked in the fields growing rice and vegetables. Promised higher wages for factory work in Thailand, Phirun and other men paid a recruiter to smuggle them across the border. But once in Thailand, the recruiter took their passports and locked them in a room. He then sold them to the owner of a fishing boat, on which the men worked all day and night slicing and gutting fish and repairing torn nets. They were given little food or fresh water, and they rarely saw land. Phirun was beaten nearly unconscious and watched the crew beat and shoot other workers and throw their bodies into the sea. Phirun endured this life at sea for two years before he persuaded his traffickers to release him.


After her mother and brother died, Jeannette’s father gave her away at age 8 to work as a domestic servant. Jeannette did housework for 18 hours a day, but she was never paid. She slept on the verandah and ate leftovers. Sometimes, she was denied food altogether. Jeannette was beaten frequently, particularly when she tried to rest. When his wife left the house, the male guardian raped Jeannette. She was not allowed to leave, but even if she was, she wouldn’t know where to go. She didn’t know if her father was still alive. Jeannette later received assistance from a local NGO.


Keni binti Carda, 28, left Indonesia to work as a domestic worker in a Gulf state. The woman who employed Keni allegedly burned her repeatedly with an iron, forced her to ingest feces, abused her psychologically, and applied household cleaners to Keni’s open wounds. She poked Keni’s tongue with a knife, pried her teeth loose and forced them down her throat, beat her own children when they tried to protest, and threatened to kill Keni if she tried to escape. Keni’s employer made her work extremely long hours every day, locked her inside the house, and sent Keni back to Indonesia before she could seek help from the authorities. She has impaired vision in one eye, and her flesh is fused together in some places where her employer allegedly burned her.

Southeast Europe

Many victims don’t know where to go for help when they escape from their traffickers or after they return home. A male victim of forced labor explains: “I knew nothing about the assistance available for trafficking victims. I didn’t know who to address in the destination country in case I needed help. I thought I could go only to the police. There I didn’t have enough courage to go to the police because the [traffickers] used to say that they bought the police. They threatened me with death in case I went to the police. I was afraid.”


Anita was trafficked from Nigeria through Ghana to Italy, where she was forced to have sex with more than 25 men a day. If she resisted, her “madam” would beat her with a belt, starve her, and threaten to deport her. Anita would rotate through Turin, Rome, and Milan, enduring mental torture and physical abuse at each base. Anita’s traffickers raped her several times, and she underwent several crude abortions. Anita survived, but some of her friends died in the ordeal.