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Chinese prostitutes work brothels in Afghan capital

Many say they were promised restaurant work but forced into Kabul's sex trade. The patrons are Western.

June 15, 2008|Alisa Tang | Associated Press Writer

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — A string of lights spells out the name of the bar in the back of the basement in capital letters: PARADISE. A dozen Chinese women in skintight miniskirts and halter tops flit around clusters of beefy Western men and flirt in broken English.

Now and then, a man and woman go upstairs, where Paradise does its real business.

Paradise is a brothel in an unmarked residential compound in an upscale Kabul neighborhood where prostitutes from China cater to Western men. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, thousands of Westerners working for security firms, companies and aid groups have poured into Afghanistan. Not long after came Chinese prostitutes, in some cases trafficked into the nation.

The International Organization for Migration helped 96 Chinese women who were deported in 2006. They told the IOM that they had been deceived by a travel agency in China and promised employment in a restaurant for $300 a month. But when they arrived, they said, the Chinese restaurant owner denied them salaries and forced them to provide sexual services.

An IOM staffer said one Chinese woman thought she was going to work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and had no idea that she had instead landed in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital.

Afghan officials denied the allegations.

"They come here of their own will. They want to do business here. Police caught them red-handed," said Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal, head of Kabul's criminal investigations.

In recent years, Afghan authorities have raided brothels fronting as restaurants and deported Chinese prostitutes in front of TV cameras. Last year in Kabul, 180 female prostitutes were arrested -- 154 "foreigners" and 26 Afghans, Paktiawal said. He would not give the nationalities of the foreign prostitutes, but many raids have been at Chinese restaurants.

Many Afghans blame prostitution on immoral Chinese women and Western men and say it is un-Islamic. The highly publicized crackdown on Chinese prostitutes has led to rampant harassment of women of East Asian origin. Police often single out Asian women in spot checks on Kabul's streets.

In Paradise, the women speak Chinese among themselves. One says she is from a town outside Beijing.

The brothel has two identical doors in the back of the building. One leads to the well-stocked basement bar where the women mingle with potential clients. The other leads up to the main part of the house, where every nook and cranny that can be closed off has a spartan twin bed mattress with no sheets.

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