Azra’s situation seemed hopeless. But that’s not where it ends.

October 4, 2023

Azra’s situation seemed hopeless. But that’s not where it ends.

After graduating from college, Azra* moved from her home country of Turkey to Cambodia. She was working as a software engineer when she began struggling to find work. After searching extensively for jobs, she got connected with a recruiter who invited her to come to another country in Southeast Asia for an interview. Well traveled and highly educated, Azra did not hesitate. She acquired a tourist visa, booked her flights, and set off for a one-week trip.

When she arrived for the interview, she was told that the boss was held up at another location, but the company would fly her out to meet with him. She agreed to go, and two flights later was greeted at the airport by a company car. She loaded her bags into the car—and then the doors were locked. Panicked, she tried to make an escape, but an armed guard threatened her, and she realized in horror that there was no way out. 19 hours later, the car stopped.

Azra has been taken to a scam facility near the border. There, her photos were taken to make profiles on dating apps and she was forced to have video calls with customers to trick them out of money. It destroyed her knowing that she was a part of robbing the people she was getting to know through the scamming correspondence—often taking their entire lifes’ savings. Not only this, but her likeness was used to create AI reconstructions for scams she didn’t even know about. And then the demands increased, and the scammers demanded she be a part of live sex cams to make them more money. Coming from a conservative background, Azra was horrified and ashamed, but her life was on the line. She was threatened with violence and constantly witnessing the punishment of other victims around her, from starvation to physical torture. Every day she feared would be the day that they would kill her. And with her passport in their possession, armed guards, and locked gates, the scammers had full confidence that no one would come to her rescue.

Despite how hopeless the situation seemed, Azra was determined for this to not be the way her story ended. She managed to get access to Whatsapp where she was able to find our local partner’s emergency contact. For the next four months, she received acute mental health support for the traumas she was experiencing through texts and phone calls while the team worked to figure out a rescue plan with her country’s embassy. Through the collaboration of international police with pressure on the country’s government, the scammers were finally forced to release her. A location for the meeting was decided upon, and our local partner’s team showed up to receive Azra and take her to their safe home for rest and care.

Once in safety, it took time for Azra to begin to open up. Her mental health was greatly impacted by her traumatic experiences, and she was suffering from PTSD symptoms including nightmares and a speech stutter. She received intensive trauma counseling for the two weeks, and then headed back home to be with her family in Turkey.

Today, Azra has been home safe with her family for over two months. It has been a short time, but her healing has come a tremendous way. While her symptoms of PTSD have not gone away entirely, they have greatly decreased, and she is not in it alone—she has family and community standing by her side, and our local partner remains committed to supporting her healing journey as well as educating the public to prevent the continuation of these cyber crimes and protect women like Azra from exploitation in the future.

This work doesn’t happen without monthly support from the team that powers the fight against sex trafficking. Will you join Team Freedom today and become a part of hopeful endings for stories like Azra’s?

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*Name has been changed for the protection of the survivor.