Region in Focus: Fergana Valley, Central Asia
Human trafficking is a function of both starting points and destinations. The trade flows through a series of intersecting cities and sex markets where victims are recruited and transferred. Without strong trade routes, victims cannot effectively be bought and sold day after day.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fertile Fergana Valley functioned as a single economic unit. After the national boundary lines were drawn, three separate countries emerged, irrespective of ethnicity—Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The valley then became the site of conflict over at least fifty border posts. In addition, visas were required to cross borders, which made day-to-day travel even more cumbersome.
In the Fergana Valley today, one common social and political thread binds rival clans together—Islam. The valley is one of the most concentrated areas of Muslims in all of Asia, a bastion of Islamic radicalism that spreads southward into Afghanistan. In fact, it is a nucleus for jihadists, making access to the territory difficult for those who want to help.
This region is also the chief passageway of the Afghan drug trade. The lion’s share of opium is trafficked through the valley into Russia, and then on to either Europe or China. The drug trafficking in this region is interwoven with human trafficking as both sweep through various staging posts.
By and large, where drug trafficking is found, human trafficking is close by. Contraband travels virtually undetected along this route, which acts as a pipeline for commodities to be transported.
Corruption is characteristic of both drug and sex trafficking. Such organized crime, taking place internationally, cannot succeed on a large scale unless authorities choose to turn a blind eye. Border officials, many of whom are impoverished, are being bought with bribes thus allowing the trade to continue. In places like the Kyrgyz and Uzbek border where a bribe is not insubstantial for a border policeman, bribes have become the norm rather than the exception.
Once the route is cleared, only the question of the victims’ destination remains. Kyrgyzstan offers inexpensive, no-hassle marriage licenses making it a convenient transit country to South East Asia or the United Arab Emirates. Many Uzbeki victims are transferred to Israel. Whichever region suits the trafficker, the Fergana Valley is a major highway to their final destination.
- Ask God to expose organized crime in the region and disrupt the flow of drugs and victims.
- Pray for righteous judicial systems to arise and enforce regulations at border crossings.
- Ask God to send missionaries to Central Asia, a largely unreached area of the world.