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The only time Rama, a year-old from Syria, broke down as she recalled her months of torture and sexual enslavement in a human trafficking ring in Lebanon was when she described how she lost her faith. Over the course of an hour, Rama — not her real name — described in harrowing detail a hellish nine months as part of the largest sex trafficking ring ever uncovered in Lebanon , in which she endured torture, including being beaten with cables and an electric baton, with a bathroom mat in her mouth to keep her from screaming.
She was forced to have sex on average 10 times a day and imprisoned in a decrepit house without even a glimpse of sunlight. She also detailed the abuse of the other women who were enslaved in the network, forced to have abortions after unprotected sex with customers, and subjected to inhumane physical and psychological torture.
Her account meshes with details obtained independently by the Guardian from security and judicial sources involved in the investigation of the network, which eluded authorities for four years and enslaved 75 Syrian women. An indictment confirmed many of her allegations. The interview with Rama, which occurred as she was finalising her departure from a shelter for abused women, offered a rare insight from one of the women enslaved in the network, who have rarely spoken to the media since its ringleaders were detained last month.
Rama described how she was lured to Lebanon from a city in Syria where she worked as a waitress in a cafe. Eager to leave her war-torn country, at the time approaching five years of civil conflict, she accepted. She said the man told her he would take care of the necessary approvals to enter Lebanon Syrians need visas now to enter the country but was surprised when he told her after a few hours of driving that they were already in the country, having crossed the border through a smuggling route.
They arrived at Chez Maurice, a derelict house that was visited by the Guardian after the police raid, where she would spend the next nine months. The windows and balconies are barred, and the two-storey house is now empty and sealed with red tape. Underwear and dirty clothes are strewn by the entrance, coffee spilled on the ground from the police raid. Some windows have been left ajar, and from there emerges the stench of rotting fruit from the dark interior, clothes and half-empty cigarette packs scattered about dingy rooms and beds with metal bars.