Istanbul Police Seek Missing Staten Island Woman

Monday, January 28, 2013

Police in Istanbul are poring over security camera footage in their search for a Staten Island mother of two who is missing in Turkey on what was her first solo trip overseas.

Sarai Sierra, 33, was supposed to arrive home last Monday, but was not on her return flight. She left her passport and other belongings at a hostel where she was staying.

Sierra's husband and brother are expected to arrive in Turkey on Monday.

"They're looking around for her, they're passing her flyers out, and the Turkish police are out day and night just trying to get some answers to figure out what exactly happened," said Magalena Rodriguez, Sierra's childhood friend.

Rodriguez describes her friend as adventurous and as someone who always made the most of each day.

The last time they spoke was on January 18, while Sierra was in transit from Munich to Turkey.

"Although she loved Turkey, she was eager to come home and share all that with us, all the pictures she took. So we know that this isn't normal. Something happened. She wanted to come home," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said Sierra had taken up photography a year ago and was eager to visit Turkey after looking at photos online. "She just wanted to do one international trip, that's all she said she wanted," Rodriguez said. "And experience the beauty herself." 


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Comments [1]

Charlotte from New York City


I am incredibly concerned that this lovely young woman may have been trafficked. Perhaps I fear this because the issue is in-blazoned on my brain due to a current research project I am undertaking on international sex trafficking and the high end auctioneering of women and girls on the black market. My heart sank when I saw the by-line about this case and something has not been sitting right with me ever since.

It concerns me greatly that Ms. Sierra was staying in a hostel. By no means do I aim to generalize here, for the shades of grey vary for each particular country and case, but hostels in many regions are often used as "scouting" locations for traffickers. Hostels typically cater to a younger demographic as we all know, thus making them a prime location for said "scouting." Airports, bus and train terminals are prime locations too. Traffickers look for women traveling alone. They look for women with adventurous spirits and minds, women who would go sight seeing with a stranger perhaps, a local who knows "the most beautiful places you could never find on a tourist map." Too many factors are aligning here, and we need to have a national conversation about sex trafficking NOW.

Most people are not aware of the horrors of sex trafficking outside of a block-buster movie where the trafficking of a hero's daughter incites a lot of gun violence throughout Europe. The realities are gruesome, unthinkable and create one of the most lucrative industries profiting today. Young, beautiful, American women and girls fetch a high amount on the black market. And horrifyingly enough, trafficking is all about money and the low status of women around the world.

I hope more than anything that all of the above are just private fears and nothing else. Making sure everyone in every corner knows about Ms. Sierra's disappearance is crucial to helping find her, so thank you WNYC for the best news coverage out there and for highlighting this worrying case.

Jan. 31 2013 08:25 PM

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