"This is the fate of any prostitution" read a sign plastered on the front of a building in Baghdad late Saturday—a building where up to 29 alleged prostitutes were killed in a raid by gunmen that same day, reports the Washington Post. At least six men were also massacred in the attack, which has the Zayounah neighborhood reeling as it tries to figure out who carried out the slaughter and why. AFP reporters were able to slip past police and into the neighborhood, where they spotted the ominous sign and talked to residents, who claim prostitutes are murdered there every few months and that police do nothing to stop it from happening. "If a person got shot right next to a policeman, they wouldn't say anything," a shopkeeper told one reporter. "They're afraid. It's the rule of the strong over the weak."
The Post doesn't mince words: "However rough life is for sex workers elsewhere in the world, it’s rougher in Iraq." The US State Department in 2003 reported that Iraqi militants who claimed to be fighting prostitution publicly beheaded more than 200 women—many of whom weren’t even sex workers—and left their heads on their families’ doorsteps. Mass "honor" killings of alleged prostitutes have reportedly continued even after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki entered office; one report says the Ministry of Interior "openly managed mass killings of prostitutes in Al Battaween in central Baghdad." Further, the Post points out that refugees are particularly at risk of being trafficked, and Iraq has produced hundreds of thousands of refugees in recent decades. According to one report, an estimated 4,000 Iraqi women have disappeared since the 2003 US invasion, and many are suspected to have been sold as sex slaves. Click to read the full Washington Post story here.