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Head of Anti-Trafficking United of the Cyprus Police, Ms Rita Theodorou Superman, was distinguished as TIP Hero by Secretary Kerry at US State Department ceremony
2016-06-30 09:41:44

Cyprus Police Head of Anti-Trafficking Unit, Rita Theodorou Superman, was distinguished today, 30 June 2016, by the US Secretary of State John Kerry as one of nine “Trafficking in Persons Heroes” from around the world, for her tireless efforts to combat human trafficking in Cyprus. Ms. Superman also had the distinction of thanking the Secretary and the US State Department on behalf of all her fellow 2016 TIP Heroes — from The Bahamas, Botswana, Mauritania, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal and posthumously, Hungary. Her speech, highlighting the suffering of victims and the threats they face even after successful conviction of traffickers, was a rallying call for action. “We can all do more” she told the audience at the State Department ceremony.

Ms. Superman’s dedication, together with her colleagues' at the Cyprus Police and across line Ministries, has also manifested in Cyprus being moved to the highest Tier 1 status in recognition of the Government of Cyprus’ efforts to combat human trafficking.

Ms. Superman's remarks at the 2016 Trafficking In Persons Report Ceremony:  

MS SUPERMAN: Thank you, Secretary Kerry. On behalf of all the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes, I want to thank you, Secretary Kerry, for this honor. (Applause.) I really strive to find the words to express the deep gratitude and appreciation that I and the rest of the heroes feel for this great honor. This day truly marks a defining moment in our lives which we have devoted to combating human trafficking and protecting its victims. Some years ago I could not have imagined that one day I would be receiving the title of hero. I realize that trafficking is like an ocean: peaceful and inviting, only to trap you in a storm where its victims are sucked down to the dark ocean floor, lost forever and hopelessly waiting for a miracle to surface.

Soon after starting as head of the police and the trafficking unit in Cyprus, I realized the huge responsibility I put on my shoulders: the fight to free and support victims and work towards achieving the maximum punishment for the perpetrators. I cannot even imagine where Irina from Moldova would be had we not freed her from the criminal network that forced her into prostitution in a cabaret a few years back. She was only 20 years old. She had come to Cyprus believing she had earned a scholarship. She was instead forced into sex trafficking. We hid her, but they were looking for her. We changed her name and she went to university. When the trial started, she was threatened that she would be sent back to her country in a coffin. Unfortunately, the defendants were acquitted. This did not make Irina any less of a victim. Today, she has completed her studies and works for an international company. (Applause.)

Also, I cannot imagine the state of mind of Charideen from the Dominican Republic if she had not been freed. What would happen if she continued to be coerced to continue in prostitution day in and day out so she would not miss any client? I cannot imagine what would happen to Pham from Vietnam, whose arm was amputated due to the very poor working conditions in the agricultural industry and who spent a whole year in a hospital because of this injury. He was then arrested as an illegal immigrant and only at that time came the recognition that he was a victim. Pham was a classic victim of labor trafficking.

My fellow heroes and I could tell you hundreds of stories like this, stories that have left a mark not only on our careers but also on our lives – stories of human pain. From these stories and also from the cruelty and greed of the traffickers, I learn not only to place myself in the shoes of the victims, but also to walk in them. We can all do more to make sure that we truly understand the experience of victims so that we can protect them.

In a recent trial where I was a witness, the lawyer of the defendants ask me, “This girl went to McDonald’s every day for food. She could have sat down in the middle of the street and start screaming for help. Couldn’t she have done this, Mrs. Superman?” I replied, “In your logic, she could. In hers, she couldn’t.”

So we need to stop judging the victims by our own logic. We need to rid ourselves of our prejudices. Let’s try and start to understand them and place ourselves in their situation. Only then we can truly help. Thank you. (Applause.)

For the full report, please click on the attached link: www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf

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