Sex for sale: the dark side of tourism in Lebanon
BEIRUT - "I send to customers of luxury hotels albums of photos of young girls. It is like selling the goods." Kamal is pimp in Beirut, a thriving business though illegal in a country where conservatism and debauchery coexist.
- "This job, I inherited from my father", said that Lebanon man of forty, who uses a borrowed name.
In hotels, nightclubs, brothels, in "cottages" and on the highways, "sex workers", sometimes young, hunt wealthy clients, particularly people of the Gulf in search of pleasure in the country considered the most liberal of the Arab world.
"In summer, demand soars, so we help each other across networks. They pass us girls when needed and vice versa," said Kamal, owner of a box in a coastal area north of Beirut known as a "platform" of prostitution.
Here, in "super nightclubs" unusual institutions in the Arab world, girls exclusively foreign, especially coming from Eastern Europe through visa called "artists" engage in "dance"and often prostitution.
"For me, it's a job like any others," said Kamal.
But in a country where sex before marriage is frowned upon and where a young couple kissing in the street may be reprimanded by a policeman, the rise of "sex business" shocks most people.
"I have friends who do not miss Mass on Sunday, but come with a prostitute twice a week because it's fashionable. It's frustrating, but mostly a sham," says Sami, expatriate businessman passing through Beirut.
In the luxury hotels for $ 20, a receptionist sends photos to the customer who "chose a blonde, a brunette, one or three," said Kamal, who employs the Lebanese and Syrian," in great demand by the Arabs."
"We take a minimum of $ 120 per hour, but can climb to 400 and more," he said, adding that "people of the Gulf pay without counting, while the Lebanese quibble.
"This job earns thousands of dollars," said commander Elie Asmar, head of the protection of morals, that "prostitution thrives because of the economic crisis in the country."
"I was attracted by easy money. When I regretted, it was too late," says Hanin, 24 years old maid in a bar near Beirut.
"My clients are disgusting, but I receive $ 100 per hour," justified Nadia, 26 years.
The most difficult cases to detect are those where prostitution is a "family affair", as is the case for Soha, whose husband is a pimp.
"He brought me customers at home, the first raped me. I tried to run away in vain," said the Syrian of 18.
Like many girls, she is resigned, by necessity, fear of gossip and abuse.
Nada, 21, high heels and plunging neckline, was prostitute since 17. "I obey my boss because he beats me," she said, before bursting into tears.
"Once we arrested a man who « sells » his wife in his own house. In another case, the husband had earned $ 7,000, the product of a week of work," said the commander.
He asserts that his services targeted networks, noting that prostitution is illegal in Lebanon and liable to two years imprisonment.
Networks to which business sometimes has mafia proportions.
"There are red lines not to cross," says Kamal. "If a girl goes to another network without our consent it is war, and there is blood shed."
Ennaharonline/ M. O.