The State Department has released its 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report. Countries are divided into three categories—Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3—based on each government’s efforts to fulfill the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The following is the section of the report focusing on Iran:
Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iranian women are trafficked internally for forced prostitution and forced marriage. Iranian and Afghan children living in Iran are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation – sometimes through forced marriages, in which their new “husbands” force them into prostitution and involuntary servitude as beggars or laborers to pay debts, provide income, or support drug addiction of their families.
There are reports of women and girls being sold for marriage to men in Pakistan for the purpose of sexual servitude. Young men and Afghan boys are forced into prostitution in male brothels in southern Iran or to Afghan and Pakistani warlords.
Iranian women and children – both girls and boys – are also subjected to sex trafficking in Pakistan, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iraq, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Some NGOs report that religious leaders and immigration officials are involved in the sale of young girls and boys between nine and 14 years old to men in Gulf states, particularly Bahrain, for commercial sexual exploitation. According to these sources, a young girl or boy could be sold for $15 to $20 or, in Iran, for as little as $5. The main purchasers of child prostitution in Iran include truck drivers, religious seminaries, and Afghan immigrant workers.
Afghan women, boys and girls are also trafficked through Iran to the Persian Gulf for commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iraq migrate voluntarily or are smuggled to Iran, or through Iran, to other Gulf states, Greece, and Turkey seeking employment. Some subsequently are subjected to conditions of forced labor or debt bondage, including through the use of such practices as restriction of movement, nonpayment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse.
In Iran, reports indicate victims primarily work in the construction and agricultural sectors, although this type of forced labor may have declined over the past year due to the economic crisis. There are reports that women from Azerbaijan and Tajikistan travel to Iran to find employment and subsequently fall victim to forced prostitution. Tajik women transit Iran and are forced into prostitution in the UAE. NGO reports indicate criminal organizations, sometimes politically connected, play a significant role in human trafficking to and from Iran, particularly across the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan in connection with smuggling of migrants, drugs, and arms.
There are nearly one million Afghans living in Iran, some as refugees and others as economic migrants, who are vulnerable to conditions of human trafficking. The Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so.
Lack of access to Iran by U.S. government officials impedes the collection of information on the country’s human trafficking problem and the government’s efforts to curb it. The government did not share information on its antitrafficking efforts with the international community during the reporting period. Publicly available information from NGOs, the press, international organizations, and other governments nonetheless indicate that the government is not taking sufficient steps to address its extensive trafficking challenges.
The government did not report any law enforcement efforts to punish trafficking offenders and continues to lack any semblance of victim protection measures. Victims of trafficking are, by government policy, detained and deported if foreign, or simply jailed or turned away if Iranian, further compounding their trauma. The Government of Iran has made no discernible efforts to address widespread government corruption that facilitates trafficking in Iran. For these reasons, Iran is placed on Tier3 for a sixth consecutive year.