The Connection Between Human Trafficking and Terrorism

Human trafficking and terrorism are two huge social and political issues which plague our society with the responsibility to identify and eliminate the root causes.  As I stated in my first blog earlier this week, it is not enough to just educate society, monitor progress and sanction countries who do not fall into compliance with what the U.S. deems an acceptable level of action in regards to counter-human trafficking efforts.  We must look at efforts to activate public policy change in order to deal with these two conjunctive issues more effectively.  Education is helpful but let’s face it education does not effectuate change.

Before I go on I want to communicate to you that I am interested in your thoughts or ideas on these two crucial issues.  What are your unique perspectives on public policy change in regards to human trafficking and terrorism?  Perhaps you have ideas or thoughts I have not considered.  I am interested in learning from other’s with regards to these issues as no one person has all the answers and if we find the resolution to these two important conflicts it will more than likely be a collaborative effort of many.

I am definitely not the first researcher to believe in the connection between human trafficking and terrorism.  In 2000, a researcher by the name of Christine Dolan conducted a 9 week study throughout Europe in which she interviewed over 500 local people including children, pimps, police and prostitutes and concluded there is definitively a connection between human trafficking and terrorism.  Her study entitled, “Shattered Innocence, Millennium Holocaust” was mentioned in the Spring 2002 Initiative Against Sex Trafficking Report and reported that human trafficking is enabling international criminals to play into a wider field of international drug trafficking, weapons and arms dealing, and even piracy, to name a few.

At the beginning of the Millennium, around the same time when the Taliban was being originally moved out of Afghanistan, there were multiple abductions of women and children reported in Afghanistan.  The Taliban were reportedly abducting women and children and selling them as sexual slaves, using them as concubines or even collecting them as war booty.  When the Taliban was finally moved out of Afghanistan they left several of the victims behind but then collected several more.

I believe it is imperative that we are able to connect human trafficking and terrorism and create a Nexus between them in order to obtain greater public policy change.  Currently, human trafficking is treated more as a social issue than as a matter of national security.  Albeit there are certain social problems created by human trafficking, it is most definitely more than a social issue.  Trafficking is a political issue as is terrorism and as such it should be treated in the same manner.  Should trafficking be treated as a matter of national security, instead of solely a social issue, public policy could be changed in a way in which substantial impact could be made.

As an example, let’s analyze a case scenario.  Women and children are trafficked into the U.S. every day through Mexico and Canada as well as Florida and other minor points of entry for the purpose of prostitution.  Terrorist organizations not only utilize human trafficking for financial support, they can also align themselves with trafficking groups to obtain a point of entry into the U.S.  Those who are trafficked into the U.S. for the purpose of prostitution could also potentially be utilized for terrorist activities.  Al Qaeda has been successful at setting up terrorist cells within the U.S. and is also known to use human trafficking, prostitution and other illegal activities to fund their organization.  What is to stop them from using a prostitute or someone closely affiliated to their sex trafficking activities to carry out an attack within U.S. borders?  This is a frightening thought but the U.S. government has already considered this possibility.  Cutting off the funding prostitution provides to terrorist activities would be a step in the right direction.

I believe major progress can be achieved by changing our own views of prostitution.  Many still view prostitution as a simple vice instead of a major crime and breach of national security.  If we change how we view this industry we can start a major shift in public opinion and perhaps public policy.

It may sound extreme to you but if policy was changed to treat prostitution as a serious offense when certain factors are present that suggest trafficking, that may have an impact on the sex trade.  If forced domestic servitude and forced slavery of any kind was treated as a breach of national security here in the U.S. we may be able to get a handle on our own domestic trafficking problem.  If trafficking of a U.S. citizen in the international community was treated as serious as a terrorist threat because of the Nexus between the two, there may be some decline in that activity.  If the U.S. shows the global community that it views trafficking as a contributor to terrorism perhaps that would persuade more global action.  Do you have other suggestions?



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    • christopher sims on 15 April, 2013 at 1:10 pm
    • Reply

    I am also looking to research this topic for a potential graduate thesis. Thanks for the article. Are there any groups dedicated to this cause? For major issues like this, we seem to have groups dedicated to finding cures, fundraising, and lobbying. It seems like such a group would enable us to share information and findings and to develop a common understanding which would be the first step towards finding the way ahead and potential solutions.

      • Sarah Anderson on 15 April, 2013 at 10:08 pm
      • Reply

      Hi Christopher,

      There are a ton of advocate groups out there dedicated to Human Trafficking prevention/assistance but none that I am aware of that link terrorism and trafficking. That is somewhat of a new issue and requires a scholarly lens to purvey the conflict/issues and resolution of same.

      Good luck with your dissertation! I am in my 3rd year Ph.D. studies and have yet to start my dissertation. I am not looking forward to the project I have in front of me as it is huge. But at least I will have a year or so to complete and attempt to get published as is the criteria for doctoral students.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Sarah Anderson

    • Sarah Bernolet on 23 November, 2012 at 6:55 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you Sarah for your article,
    I am a master student willing to do my thesis on the link between terrorism and human trafficking.
    As you can imagining I am struggling to find sources and data but your article was definitely a good start ( at least I know that I am not alone to think there is a link ) would have any articles or books to recommend on the subject ?

    Also, Gerald Kleyer have you finished your dissertation? Would you mind me emailing you about it ?

    Thanks you


  1. Sarah,

    I found your posting very informational. I am currently writing my Masters Thesis on the connections between human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism. My conclusions thus far are very similar to your. Our Administration through years has taken the human trafficking problem as a social issue. The US State Department publishes a Human Trafficking report every year describing how each country is doing with regards to policy changes and other actions to combat human trafficking, using a tier ranking system. But no where in their writings does it mention the human trafficking problem as it relates to National Security. I think as you do, if prostitution and other activities directly involved with human trafficking was treated more as threats to national security, then and only then will we be able to make actual progress in curbing human trafficking, at least in the US. I have found while doing my research that countries like Japan, who are large contributors to human trafficking have very little laws to combat against it and in fact many victims are treated like criminals and are convicted on immigration violations. There are also very little internal policies that would go after the traffickers. There is a large connection between organized crime in Japan and human trafficking, just like many other countries, but their laws do very little to support the fight against human trafficking. Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Very interesting post! I have a devil’s advocate-type question for you, though: what do you think about legalizing prostitution as a way to combat this issue? I’m not a huge fan of legalizing prostitution, but I know that one of the main arguments in support of the proposition is that legalizing prostitution would allow the government to regulate the industry, and thus cut down on unsafe or harmful practices. So if prostitution was legalized, the US government could monitor where the prostitutes were coming from and perhaps reduce the number of men&women trafficked across US borders, and hopefully sever the link between terrorist groups and sex trafficking.
    In your post you suggest treating prostitution as a serious offense and a breach of national security, so what do you think of this opposing policy suggestion where prostitution is treated as an industry with concrete rules and regulations?


      • Sarah Anderson on 23 January, 2012 at 12:38 pm
      • Reply

      That’s interesting Michelle. I certainly don’t mind devil’s advocate questions! I would be very much against legalizing prostitution. Similar to legalizing drugs, I think it sends the wrong message to society. Prostitution brings along so many other problems other than just trafficking. STD’s, domestic violence, medical issues, etc., the list goes on and on. I personally would not trust our government to monitor prostitution as I think it would be a disaster. We trust them to monitor alcohol and tobacco and we still have a ton of people dying from lung cancer and DWIs. I think the only way to completely dissolve prostitution is to take away the demand and that will probably never happen. There are two ways to look at this issue. One side is that it is a social problem which has to be dealt with on a socio-economic level. The other side is political, as a possible national security issue. That is the side I concentrate on as that is the lens I view these issues through.

      Thank you for your comment! Very interesting perspective.

      Sarah Anderson

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