When 18-year-old Fatima Musabayeva from southern Kazakhstan was offered a job at a Moscow supermarket, she jumped at the chance. Her mother had died when she was 10, and when her father passed away in 2006, Fatima and her 17-year-old sister were left to fend for themselves.
The girls were recruited through a neighbor in their home city, Shymkent. “Since our money situation was hard, we agreed,” Fatima said. “So they bought us tickets … and we left in 2007.”
The job offer seemed too good to be true – and it was. Fatima and her sister fell into the hands of human traffickers, and their “jobs” turned out to be unpaid slave labor.
“They abused us. They beat us. We slept in the cellar – there were no blankets or pillows. They fed us rotten food. It was terrible,” soft-spoken Fatima recalled in an interview with EurasiaNet.org in the office of Shymkent-based NGO Sana Sezim, or “conscience” in Kazakh. The group assists trafficking victims.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.