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And when I finally sat there with one young lady, and took out my camera, I saw an indescribable terror in her eyes. I began to understand what greased its wheels - persistent poverty, demand and corruption.
I understood the culture, the rawness of our ways, the dark humour of our days. It happens not only with me but also with everyone. I went to shelters; I met with lawyers and social workers. I pulled out a notepad instead and listened to their stories. And over time, I started piecing together the reality of sex trafficking.
They cannot unify these two parts." - Moldova, 2004 [Mimi Chakarova] Sometimes I wonder if I would do it again.
Would I risk my life knowing everything I know now? Would I enter these brothels again with the hope of finding a way out, and not show fear? Young people have a tool they can use and learn from for years to come. Even if only 20 people got to see the film, I would still do it again.
They were often photographed by the pimps during what is known as the "break down" period - days or weeks of torture and rape designed to break down the spirit and resistance of their victims. The missing piece of the puzzle was what happened to the women once they were sold in the countries that exploited them as sex slaves.
I decided to follow their route, making my way to the red-light districts and brothels of Istanbul, Athens, Dubai, Prague ...
; Don't you think that men are the reason this continues to exist? Do you think making a film about something so complex is enough? I've seen some of the worst that we are capable of. Anyone who oversimplifies how the system operates is doing a disservice to the many moving parts of this perfectly designed machine. If she starts acting up, if she gets sick, if she takes too long to complete the tasks she has been ordered to do, you beat or kill her, dump her in the sea, burry her in the backyard or toss her from a highrise. If she cuts herself too many times, you sell her to another brothel where they like scarred girls. Her parents didn't know whether she was still alive. She had been trafficked for sex in Istanbul, but a client helped her escape. She called her parents the day I found her to tell them she is alive but can't return home because the pimps kept her passport.
Sometimes they [the clients] are dirty and smell of sweat. The customer enters the room, chooses the girl he wants and forces himself on her. The other two huddle in the corner and wait for it to be over. One of them has been looking for a sharp object with which to slit her wrists but finds nothing in the room. She hopes for a knife, but wonders how she will get it from his pocket. I couldn't let down all the girls who had talked to me and eventually let me film them. My only way of seeking justice is through my reporting and filming.
You have no choice." - Moldova, 2005 [Mimi Chakarova] It was dangerous. As a woman, I couldn't pose as a client as many of my male investigative colleagues did. Once a day, the door opens and the man - the father of the children and husband of the wife - throws a few bananas into the room, then quickly locks the door. I can't eat out of the same plate as my mother." - Moldova, 2005 [Mimi Chakarova] I was given an award for courage at the Lincoln Center in New York. Everything I knew about trafficking went into the making of was used as a tool in anti-corruption police units in Serbia before we even released it.
In it lives a husband, his wife and their two children. Inside the room are three trafficked girls from Moldova. Six months later and back in her village in Moldova, Olesea couldn't tell her mother the truth of how she was sold for sex in Turkey. And after almost three years of this documentary being shown at film festivals, universities and on television screens throughout the world, I was finally able to get it in front of viewers in Turkey.
She came home pregnant and had an abortion at a local clinic. There are clients looking for girls who are locked and forced into a life of prostitution. A girl unbuttons her shirt and tells me: "Take a picture." Her chest is covered with cigarette burns. CNN Turk reached out and conducted an interview with me about my undercover work in Istanbul.