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Correspondent Friday, 14 June, 2002, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
UN recommendation: Practice safe sex
Mobile phones used to call up girls
An exclusive interview with Dzenana Karup-Drusko, a Bosnian investigative journalist, on the trafficking of women for the Correspondent website.
Correspondent website,
Exclusive interview:



Did the problem of trafficking and prostitution begin before the war in Bosnia or after?

Trafficking as a business did certainly not exist here before the war - and one simple explanation for this is because former Yugoslavia had generally very strict laws regarding lots of things, including trafficking of people.

However, the nightclubs started appearing in the north-western part of Bosnia around Brcko immediately after the political changes in Eastern Europe, which brought enormous economic changes in the region.

Some women began working in nightclubs toward the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s. The trade of trafficking women in particular, is a product of the war, which of course contributed to this problem.

As the war continued, the presence of uniformed military men grew.

So is this a problem that emerged during the war or did it come with the arrival of the peace keeping forces?

The local soldiers did not have the means and money to pay for such services - the services of these women were used exclusively by foreign soldiers and officers as well as other foreign officials who were employed in international organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, by the powerful locals who had enough money to afford something like this.

But, earlier on you said that women started to come in at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s. There were no internationals were there?

What year did UMPROFOR come here? 1991? Yes. Yes of course - but I said that they were occasional cases. So, the worsening of the economic situation for women in Eastern Europe brought individual cases to our attention - cases of women who were coming to work in the nightclubs.

But, trafficking as a slave trade started appearing during and after the war. So, when the local powerful punters started getting into this, they realised how much of a profitable business this is and the potential market there was out there, then the business developed.

If it were not for the foreigners who had the means to pay for such services, we probably wouldn't have trafficking developing as a business because people in Bosnia were very poor during and after the war.

We've been given figures that 30 per cent of customers now are internationals and 70 per cent are locals. Do you agree with these figures?

I don't agree with the figures supplied by the international community. The surveys they do in military camps are probably not correct because international soldiers would not admit to visiting these clubs since it is forbidden for them to do so. It is forbidden according to their regulations and it is forbidden according to the local law.

The other reason I don't believe them is that there were several obvious cases & indications that high ranking international officials were involved in trafficking incidents and they were in touch with these girls.

And, every time - and I mean EVERY TIME - the affairs got hushed up. I can't remember any occasion whatsoever that any officer was held responsible and answered these claims. They were simply sent home and that's how every affair ends.

I think that the international community does not have access to exact figures because foreigners in this country do not de facto subscribe to the local laws, and the international community, in general, is not interested in judging its own people for what they consider to be not such an important or primary issue for them.

How do you have this insight? Did you visit a lot of these nightclubs?

Yes, from 1998 when I started investigating this issue I covered almost the whole of the region of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and my first articles spoke about it. In the following articles I dealt with this problem from different angles - the aspects of the presence of the international men, the current situation, what extent war contributed to it.

I was particularly interested in how this problem was dealt with in other countries because this is not only an issue for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia is only one country in a chain of countries faced with this problem and we can't bear this cross on our own or deal with it on our own.

And that is why I feel that when I speak of trafficking I can speak with understanding because I have been writing about it and dealing with it for several years.

You say there are more raids in Sarajevo than the rest of Bosnia. Is there a difference between Sarajevo and the rest of the country?

Yes of course there is, for the simple reason that Sarajevo is the main city and has the international organisations based here, and ultimately, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina is based here.

I'm not saying that raids are not done outside Sarajevo but it is much easier to discover that some local official or international official is involved in a corruption in a small local community than it is in a bigger centre.

On the other hand there are many more nightclubs per population in the areas near the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srbska as well as on the border between Republika Srbska and Yugoslavia. So, these are some zones where the government cannot enforce as much control as they can in Sarajevo for example.

On one occasion, I was in a night-bar on the border between two regions. As soon as a raid happened the girls simply moved to the other part of the house that was in the other region.

The Bosnian government simply hasn't got any mandate or power to conduct a raid in Republika Srbska and there is, of course, very little co-operation between Bosnia and Republika Srbska.

How did you go about your investigations?

First of all I went to all the bars as a guest. I didn't introduce myself as a journalist because the sort of job they are doing is illegal and forbidden by law in Bosnia. So, to get information I went there as a guest who somehow ended up there without realising what type of place it was, and I was successful.

When I talked to girls for the first time I was very curious to find out who the people are that visit such places. On first impressions they were totally normal people.

The men gather there and have a drink and behave like normal people who at the end of a hard day's work go out in a normal place, as if it were a pub. The only difference is that there are girls who are prepared to keep them company and are happy to offer something more too.

A lot of foreign and local men are there for the same reason, to have some female company without the intention of going to a room with them. Of course, the ones who can afford it are more than happy to pay for something more than company.

When I was investigating a particular bar I found that the guests were respectable businessmen. I had their names but because of the sensitivity I had for their families I didn't want to reveal their identity, because they were respectable citizens.

So, the only difference I felt when I was present in these bars compared to other bars was that I was immensely scared. The owners of these bars are usually people with a previous criminal record or with some criminal tendencies.

And, of course, I was there with an investigating aim, to find out if there was any trafficking going on there, whether there were any women victims, how much money the owner makes, where did the girls come from etc.

Moreover, I did not have any protection or security during this investigation and that's why I was quite scared.

How do you see the role of the UN in this? Some say that they are the cause of the problem and they are now trying to be the solution. Do you think they make an effort to solve this problem?

I wouldn't agree that the UN is the only cause of the problem. All the events that took place in Europe from the beginning of the 90s contributed to it. Therefore, the reason is not only the start of the war in former Yugoslavia but the general changes and economic crisis in Eastern Europe.

So, the UN is only one element that contributed to the development of trafficking in the whole of Europe. The poverty of Eastern Europe and the demand for women as sex slaves in Western Europe or in Bosnia or anywhere where they can make money created this problem.

Yes, they partly helped fuel the trafficking business. But on the other hand, the UN is the only organisation in Bosnia as well as in other countries of Eastern Europe, I assume, that have the means to deal with this problem.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is only one country in a chain of countries that are involved in this and we cannot solve this problem independently. Ultimately, these are women who come from several different countries, they move them around and one can hardly trace the origins of their journey.

So, only the international community and governments of Western Europe can do something about this if they are determined enough to do so.

Do you think that the UN should stop their soldiers going into these nightclubs - because if you don't have demand you don't have a market?

As far as I've heard, the only constructive advice they give their soldiers is how to behave in such places and they recommend them to practice safe sex.

Boys will be boys: Sunday 16 June 2002 on BBC Two at 1915 BST

Reporter: Sue Lloyd-Roberts
Producer: Lode Desmet
Deputy Editor: Farah Durrani
Editor: Karen O'Connor

See also:

24 May 02 | Country profiles
06 Apr 02 | Europe
22 Mar 02 | Europe
Links to more Correspondent stories are at the foot of the page.


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