Earlier this month an article came out in the New York Times titled, “Limbo for U.S. Women Reporting Iraq Assaults“. It told the story of Jamie Jones and Mary Beth Kineston. Jamie had been gang-raped by co-workers in 2005 in Iraq and Mary Beth was sexually assaulted by a driver. In the story it tells how these women testified at a Congressional hearing in December about making it easier for victims to sue employers. I wont go into everything in the article, you can go read it yourself.
What I want to bring to your attention is that one woman, Tracy Barker, was also supposed to testify in December and wasn’t allowed to. And even after spending many hours talking to the reported that write this article, was excluded from it. I have spent the last few weeks talking with Tracy. It is very hard for me to do this. It just causes the return of the nightmares that I thought I had beaten back.
Anyway, after some long talks, Tracy has decided to let me post her story here and in the other places that I blog. Please read her story below, it will horrify you and make you very angry.
In 2004, I started working as a contractor for Halliburton where my original assignment was the Green Zone in Baghdad. Leaving Dubai on Ariana Airlines our plane caught fire and our seats weren’t attached to the floor as the plane whirled around to land back in Dubai. After reloading to another flight we arrived in Baghdad. Upon my arrival, twenty employees and I waited in front of the Baghdad International Airport for a bus for several hours without security. When arriving at the Green Zone I met my two direct supervisors, Crystal Daniels and Barron Marcee. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Daniels and Mr. Marcee started to sexually harass and threaten me including the Local National Iraqi Women. When the Iraqi women would turn to me crying for help and advice they would indicate that living under these conditions was still better than living under Sadam Hussein. My supervisor choked a local national by the name of Sunni in the conference room as if to kill her. I reported these events through what was supposed to be confidential program allowing employees to make complaints with Halliburton/KBR by contacting Human Resources in Houston, Texas. Halliburton/ KBR broke my trust in reporting and giving copies of my complaints back to my two supervisors Crystal Daniels and Barron Marcee.
By way of retaliation, the sexual harassment increased and escalated. I was then told to report to Wesley Lane, a Halliburton/KBR Human Resources. I was forced to walk on the street while my supervisor drove in her vehicle behind me. When I arrived at HR to Ms Lane my job was threatened by trying to force me to sign a false statement regarding bad work conduct. When I refused to sign a false statement, I was forced to the living container where I would wait for three days locked up like a prisoner. I was not allowed any outside communication. I was not even allowed to speak with my husband, 1st Sergeant Galen Barker, who has been in active duty serving our country with the Army for twenty three years now.
I was told to “stay there or lose my job.” Food was brought to me as if I was a convicted criminal. When I had to use the bathroom to urinate, Wesley Lane watched me. When I asked why she had to watch me while I urinated, I was told that Halliburton/KBR did not want me to call the United States again for help. I was not allowed to use the bathroom unless a Halliburton/KBR employee watched.
Several days later I was transferred from Procurement Department to Billeting. As I went to walk outside a mortar fell upon our trailer and the neighbors from the blast I flew several feet. The noise of the mortar and shrapnel flying I felt as though my life was about to end. I found someone with a cell phone and called my husband in panick scared and confused… I kept telling myself that this was the worse it could possibly be and continued to fight to stay and work as a contractor. I was later transferred to Basra. Upon my arrival several men were waiting for my convoy. I didn’t understand what was happening so I was told that they wanted to see how good looking I was to approve of my transfer. I didn’t take this serious although it was the camp manager who told this to me. I shared the office that I was assigned to work in with Sherman Richardson and other male employees. The office walls had pornography hung all over the place. The pictures contained pictures of prostitutes from Thailand and animals having sex. The visits to the brothel houses while on R & R were visibly displayed through the headquarters office in which I was assigned. Because Halliburton/KBR did not have a Human Resource office in Basra, I sought help from Charles Hermanan whom I understood to be a staff member for the State Department working in its Human Resources department. Mr. Hermanan told me that others had complained to him about Sherman Richardson, including Joyce Watts, the person whose job I was taking. Mr. Hermanan told me that Ms. Watts left her position due to Sherman’s sexual harassment. Mr. Hermanen told me “Sherman will be Sherman” and to my knowledge, nothing was done.
The State Department and Halliburton/KBR conducted private meetings with all the women on camp including soldiers, state department employees, and contractors. These meetings warned us that we were not safe in the camp due to the men’s behavior and attitude. Men being overly horny in a war zone. There had been several breaks INS of women’s living trailers where their underwear and bras were stolen. There were peeping toms reported by State Department employees. We were told NEVER to walk alone. We were instructed not to mention the meetings to anyone or we would lose our job. Two days later, Halliburton/KBR and the State Department ordered all women’s living quarters to have metal coverings installed over their windows to keep men away. Shortly after the meetings, I was being sexually harassed by Halliburton/KBR camp manager, Craig Grabein. He continuously tried to force me to sleep with him in exchange for safety and other favors. He would not leave me alone and kept knocking on my door at all hours.
After many attempts to get to Kuwait to report this incident to Halliburton/KBR’s Human Resources office, someone kept removing my name from the travel manifest to Kuwait where I could get help. After many attempts, I was finally able to travel. As I arrived in Kuwait, I was followed in a hard car by Halliburton/KBR Logistics supervisor. He began to force me into the hard car along with Halliburton employees and was told I would lose my job if I reported what was going on. I was also informed that I was needed immediately in Basra. We traveled to a staging area in the middle of Iraq. I had been left in the middle of a war zone. I was then instructed that I had to ride with the food truck without PPE equipment. Because I had nowhere to turn or anyone to call for help, I had to ride with a food truck driven by a British soldier who knew I was a US Citizen. I finally reached Basra after a hellish 19 hour ordeal of traveling the route seeing insurgents and starving children. Halliburton/KBR still continued to threaten to fire me if I did not stop reporting the incidents and did not go back to the camp in Basra to continue to work. After I returned all of my things were removed from my trailer, I was informed that the Camp Manager Craig Grabein told two men (Halliburton employees) to go to my trailer and take all of my personal items, including the furniture I had purchased there being left at the staging area and my trailer had been cleaned out..
I continued on a daily basis talking with Deborah Woodhams, an EAP representative with Halliburton/KBR. Because of the order that I was not to travel, we were only allowed to converse on the phone.
On June 21, 2005, I was assaulted by State Department employee (Ambassadors Assistant), Ali Mokhtare. He attempted to rape me after falsifying a work order for a faulty air conditioning unit. Prior to attacking me, he had told me of a horrific story in which Filipino women had been raped in Saudi Arabia and later found dead. Ali had me in a choke hold as he tried to tear my clothing from me as he spoke in Arabic. I barely escaped from Mokhtare’s trailer. On my way to security, Mohktare followed me speaking in the name of Ala following me with a flash light. I ran into a female Farsi translator; she asked if I was okay I was crying. Mokhtare and this women spoke in Arabic. She stated that Mohktare was a very powerful man and had made threats on me. That night, she disappeared to the United States. I immediately reported this sexual assault to Halliburton/KBR and State Department RSO Bryan Hathway. I was placed in lock up for three days again, refused medical care and was not allowed to communicate with anyone on the outside. I was crying and wanted help but was refused.
I snuck to a phone booth to call my husband crying trying to get help. I was caught by Camp manager and then ordered to my living container for another day. My husband was then trying to make his way to Kuwait to meet with and old co worker of his who worked for Black Water to rescue me from Iraq.
That night after the attack our camp generator had gone out on the camp. My roommate was in Kuwait for training. I was alone and the camp was black. We had no air and I was frightened. I hid under my bed with a knife and cried myself to sleep with fear until I feel asleep. After the three days of lock up, I was ordered back to work by Craig Grabein and Bryan Hatheway and ordered to wear the same clothes I was wearing the night Ali Mokhtare had sexually assaulted me. I was told by Bryan Hatheway to enter the DFAC at a certain time so he could watch and see how men reacted to my clothing and appearance. I asked Hatheway why I was being ordered to wear the same clothing, and he told me that the State Department wanted to see if I was intimidating to men. I was denied medical treatment and was told if I tried getting medical treatment that I would compromise the investigation.
After trying to schedule a convoy to get me out of Basra so I could go home, Halliburton and the State Department kept taking me off of the manifest list so I would not be able to leave. I was distraught, stressed, scared and depressed. I was still refused medical care. I would pace back and forth in my trailer and had cramping in my legs I begged to leave for medical care but still was refused.
I was informed that a physician by the name of Dr. David Pakkal from the State Department happen to get stranded in our camp due to hostile attacks and bombings. Someone in the camp alerted me to his presence and I was able to speak to him to let him know what had been going on and what was happening with me. Two days later, Dr. Pakkal was able to add me to the manifest and ignored the orders of Halliburton/KBR staff that were refusing to allow me to leave. That evening I was given sleeping pills by Halliburton medics to what I was told ease the stress form the attempted rape. The morning of the convoy, I awoke finding the camp manager sexually assaulting me. The convoy was leaving in an hour I ran and left everything immediately reported to Dr Pakkal who took me in the convoy and to Human Resource Manager Rick Hopper in Kuwait, where I spent several hours filing a report. After that I was escorted to Medics where I was handed a paper of leave and told to go to the airport. I believe Dr. Pakkal saved my life. When Dr Pakkal was asked later he stated that there had been so many women contractors raped in Iraq that he couldn’t remember one from the next.
After returning home to my husband and children, I continued to go through the proper channels of Halliburton. I was contacted by Lynn Falango, a State Department investigator with the Diplomatic Security Service. Ms. Falango stated the Mr. Mokhtare had issued a sworn statement admitting to my version of what happened with him. I was told that he would be prosecuted and stripped of his security clearance. I was also told that I would be informed of the investigation. After that phone call I never heard from Ms. Falango until October 2005. Ms. Falango called me on a Saturday from her home and stated that the assault was being covered up and that I needed an attorney because the State Department was hiding what happened. Ms. Falango then stated that her supervisor had instructed her not to speak to me again and the case was taken from her after she tried to get Mr. Mokhtare prosecuted. She then hung up the phone.
Two months after I was home, I was surprised to receive a phone call from another rape victim, a person whom I had never met or spoken with before. She told me that she had been gang raped. I asked how she had received my contact information, and she told me that Ms. Lynn Falango, the State Department investigator who now took on her case was passing out my home number to rape victims from Iraq. I had been the first to come forward about the assaults and now heard of her. Since I had been sexually assaulted and attacked months prior, Ms. Falango felt I could help this victim. .
On November 20, 2005 I received a phone call from Attorney Advisor, Henry Norcom, who worked with the Civil Rights Office of the State Department. The State Department offered me $3,500 petty cash to drop the allegations against Mr. Mokhtare. I refused. I was then told that my case was closed and not given any more information. Since that time, I have worked through Congressman Bob Etheridge’s office just to get information from the State Department on the case involving Mohktare.
After I filed a charge of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation with the Houston Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Commission determined that there was cause to believe these events. Even though Mohktare had admitted to assaulting me, Mohktare has still not been prosecuted. It is my understanding, however, that Congressman Bob Etheridge has sent a letter to the Attorney General asking for the case to be reopened.
On December 18, 2007, I was told that I was needed in Washington for a Congressional hearing. I had just given birth to twins prematurely and my new born twins were in Neonatal ICU due to certain complications. Prior to this call, I had not been informed that a hearing was planned or occurring. I had two hours notice before my flight left. In my view, Congressman Bob Etheridge tried very hard to get me a chance to testify in front of the committee but as I arrived I wasn’t able to testify for Homeland Security due to scheduling. We were also told that no one wants our story out.
Unfortunately when 2020 did a story on me it only told of the attack by Ali Mokhtare. It never covered my story and law suit against Halliburton/KBR and being locked in a container 2 times after being sexually assaulted.
On January 30, 2008 I was ordered by Judge Miller in Houston Texas to go to arbitration comments recently in the media that sexual harassment up to assault is a reality in today’s work place. I have a pretrial hearing against Ali Mokhtare April 11, 2008 in Arlington Virginia and a full trial in June. My attorney is Stewart Hoffer of Houston Texas.