Friday, June 12, 2009

Spain: Voodoo and Forced Prostitution

MADRID, SPAIN, May 22, 2009 - The Spanish police say they have broken up a human trafficking ring that forced Nigerian women into prostitution by threatening them with voodoo curses.

The police said Thursday that they arrested 23 people this week in raids in several Spanish cities after a Nigerian woman in Seville claimed she was a victim of the ring and reported its activities to the police in February.

The traffickers lured their victims with promises of a better life in Europe and took them to a voodoo priest before departure, the police said in a statement. The traffickers then smuggled them to Spain, where they told the victims they had to become prostitutes to repay a hefty debt for their journey or face the wrath of voodoo spirits.

Musikilu Mojeed, a journalist for the Nigerian online newspaper 234Next.com who has written about voodoo and human trafficking, said voodoo, known in Nigeria as juju, was a fairly common tool of intimidation used by traffickers.

Women were taken to a voodoo shrine and made to swear before a priest that they would never reveal the identities of the traffickers, he said. The priests took pieces of fingernails or hair from the women as part of the ritual.

“People here are very scared of the power of voodoo, so the traffickers tell the victims that if they do anything funny they will invoke voodoo,” Mr. Mojeed said in a telephone interview.

“They fear death, illness, any misfortune the priest tells them,” he added. “If the priest tells them they will get smallpox, then they believe they will catch smallpox.”...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT NYTimes.com

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