TRABZON, Turkey - The women arrive here by ferry from across the Black Sea, sometimes dozens at a time. Whatever their real names, they are known in Turkey as Natashas, and often end up working as prostitutes in this country's growing sex trade, sometimes against their will.
Turkey, with its now booming economy and lax visa requirements, is becoming the world's largest market for Slavic women, one of the most visible exports of the former Soviet Union's struggling new states.
"Think of many rivers flowing into one sea," said Allan Freedman, who coordinates countertrafficking programs at the Ankara bureau of the International Organization for Migration, an independent body that works closely with the United Nations. "That sea is Turkey."
Most of the women come of their own free will but many end up as virtual slaves, sold from pimp to pimp through a loosely organized criminal network that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul and beyond.
Prostitution is legal in strictly secular Turkey where the government licenses brothels, known as "general houses," and issues prostitutes identity cards that give them rights to some free medical care and other social services. But women working in general houses - there is usually one in each large city - tend to be older, and the demand for young, slender women has outstripped supply as Turkey's economy has improved. Slavic women are meeting that need.
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