“Exploited in a very ugly way”: Iraq war refugees in Syria

Curator's Note

The story of displaced, kidnapped, and deceived Iraqi girls and young women now working in the Syrian sex industry is surely disturbing. Aside from raising awareness, the YouTube placement raises several issues. One, as several YouTube links reveal, the basic story has been reported not only the tireless Journeyman Pictures, but also by U.S. television networks, NBC and CBS. All three reports follow a basic structure: “anonymous” figures appear dancing, shadowed, blurred, and framed as “exotic,” followed by testimonies from sex workers, activists, or other experts. But striking as such similarities may be, we might also wonder about differences: presumed audiences, visual and audio compositions, degrees of graphic slickness. Two, according to keyword-association, the clip is listed alongside other usual YouTube fare, including other stories on prostitution, spoofs, and links to “sexy college girls.” Even given how the reading savvy of many net consumers, questions remain: where and how does exploitation begin or end? Who is exploited, by whom? How does context shape and reshape this story?

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