[Stop-traffic] Femmes de l'Est

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] Femmes de l'Est
From: Femmes de l'Est (femmesdelest@yahoo.com)
Date: Fri Nov 10 2000 - 06:45:38 EST

Femmes de l'Est: Self-help for trafficked women.

A group of approximately forty Albanian-speaking women and twelve
Russian-speaking women who are street sex workers in Lyon have formed the
group Femmes de l'Est to act as a support and self-help group. This is not a
registered organization but an attempt to formalize our previously informal
self-help activities. Our common language is a mixture of Albanian, English
and Italian.

Many of us have been "trafficked" in that some of us where kidnapped, raped
and forced into prostitution, even more of us were procured with promises
that we would eventually marry our boyfriends after we had earned enough
money to buy homes and businesses in our home country. We have all suffered
violence, fear and exclusion.

This group was formed after several of us visited Albania and returned to
France having seen that the money we had sent home for many years had been
mostly wasted. We began to question our future. Since that time some of us
have managed to throw off our boyfriends and others are working to do the
same. As a result of this some of us have been threatened and threats have
been made against our families in Albania, but we are continuing to work for
our complete freedom from oppression. We have held meetings where women who
have got rid of their boyfriends explain how they did it to other women. We
have asked another young Albanian migrant women who used to be irregular in
Germany to help us, she now has documents and cannot be deported, and so she
helps us with many things.

We have also been organizing against the ethnic attacks made upon us by
other sex workers, many of us have been seriously attacked in recent weeks
by trans-sexual sex workers led by a small group of French sex workers who
want us deported. The police do nothing to help us and have even watched as
we have been attacked.

Now the local vice police is demanding that all the Albanian and Russian sex
workers go to the police station to have their papers controlled and many of
us are scared that we will be deported.

We are threatened with arrest for pimping one another so if we stand to
close to one another in the street or share a hotel room because we can then
be arrested and one of us charged with pimping the other, as such we suffer
more attacks and violence than other women because we often have to work
alone. Sometimes we do stand in groups for protection and company and then
the police say that is because we are members of organized crime.

We have been able to arrange temporary safe accommodation so that women in
fear of their boyfriends, other sex workers or the police can have refuge
for a few days. We pay for this from our own money. We have also had various
leaflets and information translated into Albanian and we are making our own
guide to live in Lyon so new women can be better informed.

We have also issued a press release about the activities of this small group
of racist sex workers who seek to persecute us. Some of us have given
interviews to the local media, but we are very unhappy with how we have been
represented in the French media.

We are also working to prevent trafficking, recently one of us returned to
Albania to rescue her sister from a trafficker. The sister is now safe and
we intend to bring her to France so she can find non-sex work or education.
To do this we have to get her documents and bring her to France. This is a
big problem for us but we will help this young woman.

We also want to oppose the system that exists in Albania that means if we
are expelled or deported from the EU, we can be detained in Albania by the
Albanian police who will contact our parents and not release us until they
is not protection it is humiliation and it destroys our lives in Albania. If
we want our parents to collect us let us call them or send them a telegram,
it should be our choice.

Furthermore for the non-Albanian women the police just SELL them back to the

We understand that this system of abuse is supported by many organizations
protecting women in Albania. We say it is a dirty system and does nothing
for us but make us dogs in our communities.

We now have weekly meetings about issues and not just about using condoms!
We have had recently a meeting about violence and also a meeting about
economic migrants and refugees. Last night we had a district meeting for the
women in one particular area to discuss violence, and a survey we will make
about the needs of our group in Lyon.

It is very difficult for us to organize but we have a system where we can
send sms messages to more than half the group and this helps us keep
everyone informed. We have our own community worker who helps us with many
practical things and is a good organizer, she works part-time for an NGO
helping us with health issues, but she works also with us for many hours
without payment. We now use our social meetings to also discuss issues and
to try and make something happen.

We now want to make better lives for our group.

We don't want any media to contact us; we just want other organizations for
women to know we are now working.

Justine Iliria
Femmes de l'Est.

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