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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.
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. Freedman said. The trade is not hard to find.
Outside Istanbul's general house, a collection of tiny brothels in a warren of alleys behind a guarded metal gate, touts accost visitors with whispered promises of beautiful young Russian girls at not much more than the price of the older Turkish women waiting for customers inside. Part of the reason Turkey has become a magnet is that the more lucrative markets of Western Europe are protected by increasingly strict visa requirements that take weeks to work through, with only uncertain results.
Turkey is also becoming a staging area for illegal migration elsewhere. Freedman, referring to European resistance to Turkey's quest to join the bloc. Turkey has been working in the past two years to stop the trafficking and get off the United States government's black list.