Foreword by the Editors
Every few years a newspaper or magazine article will be published, or perhaps a television documentary will be aired, seeking to expose the sordid operations of the so-called “white slavery” business: The illegal trafficking of women sold into a life of exploitation and involuntary prostitution.
Almost always these reports have focused upon the cruelty of the slave trade and upon the appalling and often brutal conditions under which these unfortunate women must live and work while imprisoned within the squalid quarters of Cambodian, Indian or Turkish bordellos. There may be the occasional report of a police raid upon a relatively small prostitution ring in the United States, where a dozen or more helpless young women, typically from Mexico and other Latin American countries, are found quietly plying “The World’s Oldest Profession” within a pervasive climate of fear – a fear of beatings, of hunger, or more often than not, simply a fear of arrest and deportation – but such accounts are rare indeed; the far more common image of modern white slavery, as documented by the media, is that of a savage and barbaric underworld in which women are bought and sold like cattle and are forced to provide sexual services while held prisoner within the many filthy, disease-riddled brothels that litter the decaying sections of overcrowded cities in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Exotic tales of beautiful young women being whisked away upon spirited Arabian stallions, to live as pampered concubines in lavishly-appointed Middle Eastern harems under the spell of a ruggedly handsome desert prince, are the stuff of Romance novels. Many victims of sexual enslavement, especially those from the desperately impoverished rural regions of Moldova, Ukraine and other former Soviet states, are lured into the sex trade by vague promises of large sums of money to be earned abroad performing housekeeping or other “domestic services.” Most, however, are simply abducted by force – from their homes, their schools, from local restaurants and shops, or sometimes merely as they walk unescorted through the streets of the City – and are subsequently drugged or
beaten into submission. Particularly in the underdeveloped Asian countries of Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia, a significant number of preadolescent girls are sold to the sex traffickers – often by an uncle or grandfather, a neighbor, or perhaps a “trusted family friend” – and once purchased these unfortunate children are repeatedly required to perform sexual acts long before they have even attained puberty.
The women and young girls held in sexual bondage live at all times under the total domination of their captors. Generally they are poorly clothed and fed, receive little if any medical attention, and are frequently whipped and tortured in order to ensure their obedience and to reinforce their feelings of degradation and absolute hopelessness. The death rate among the victims of white slavery is staggering: Few women survive into their thirties the physical and sexual abuse to which they are subjected on a daily basis, and those who do manage to escape the horrors of the brothel remain psychologically and often physically scarred for life. Official estimates vary, but between 1.2 and 2 million women and young girls are believed to be currently held as captive sex slaves throughout the world; however, despite the concerted efforts of several international humanitarian organizations such as AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire, or “Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances”), the POPPY Project in Great Britian, and the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), tragically only a comparatively small number of women over the years have been successfully rescued from their lives of cruel sexual servitude.
This is indeed the “face” of white slavery in the 21st Century, as depicted until now by the international media. As shocking as the images presented may be, however, and certainly as disturbing as the graphic accounts told to us by the surviving victims of sexual enslavement, IN/SIGHT has learned these reports do not reflect the only manner in which, for profit, women and young girls are systematically abused sexually on an institutional basis. Until recently, even the existence of a large, well-organized and extremely well-financed business based upon the sexual exploitation of women has remained a closely guarded secret known only to a very select group of the world’s most wealthy and powerful men. In the following exclusive report, IN/SIGHT will examine one such highly profitable enterprise, known simply as “Island Royale.”
Pursuing this story proved to be both frustratingly difficult and exceedingly time-consuming. Our Correspondent, whose identity has been withheld at his specific request, began his investigation well over seven years ago with the sketchy stories told to him by rural Russian and Ukrainian villagers of several young female children having been stolen from their homes and families, never to be seen again. Despite repeated official governmental denials of the villagers’ claims our Correspondent pressed on, following a winding and often dangerous trail that would eventually take him to India, Thailand and Viet Nam in Southeast Asia, as
well as to Spain, Poland, Turkey, and other countries in Europe and in the Middle East. Encountering along the way seemingly endless false leads and periodic threats to his personal safety, he nonetheless persevered.
Our Correspondent’s big break came finally with a chance meeting in Cairo, Egypt, with a local sex trafficker who in turn introduced him to yet another marketer of women known only as Yusuf. Yusuf told him very little, but several days later an unidentified Westerner contacted our Correspondent at his hotel and directed him to return to New Orleans, in the United States, where he was advised a car would be waiting for him. Not knowing what to expect, but having been assured that “all questions [would] be answered” upon his arrival, our Correspondent did as he had been instructed, and indeed was met at the airport by an unassuming black sedan and its enigmatic male passenger. He soon found himself aboard a private jet aircraft, and while flying high above the Gulf of Mexico received an extraordinary invitation to document in detail what is undoubtedly the most well-organized and lucrative bordello in the world.