Humanitarian Predators Like Sohail Ayaz

Lori Handrahan
5 min readNov 14, 2019

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That’s the problem with pedophiles. They keep turning up. Arrested over and over for child sex trafficking and rape.

Predators like Sohail Ayaz, a former Save the Children grants manager, arrested, 2009, in the United Kingdom (UK) for “thousands” of images/videos of infants and children “tied up, blindfolded, suspended” and raped. Ayaz was also wanted by Italian police in connection with a Romanian trafficking ring. He was sentenced to four years in British jail and six months in Italian prison.

Sohail Ayaz, former Save the Children UK Grants Manager

Ayaz was arrested, again, this week in Pakistan on child sex trafficking charges. After being deported from the UK and Italy, he regained employment as a consultant on a World Bank funded project in Pakistan and kept raping children. The British judge who sentenced Ayaz noted it was “disturbing” that Ayaz sought employment with Save the Children with the intended purpose of accessing vulnerable children.

Disturbing indeed. Just like former British Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt’s plan to create a humanitarian sex offender registry, Operation Soteria, controlled by Save the Children. Denounced by Aids-Free World as “rudimentary” and “haphazard,” this safeguarding plan is more than shoddy. It is alarming. Placing Save the Children at the helm— a decision as unconscionable as it is baffling — demonstrates scant understanding of how humanitarian predators operate.

Former British Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt

In addition to Ayaz, Save the Children has employed and supported quite a few notable predators. Such as convicted Canadian Peter Dalglish whose organization, Street Kids International, was absorbed in a cozy arrangement by Save the Children. Then there is Ravi Karkara, previously with Save the Children in Nepal, who was finally dismissed from UN Women after multiple reports he offered teenage boys and young men employment in the United Nations in exchange for sexual abuse and exploitation.

In 2018, Peter Newell was sentenced to seven years on child rape charges in the UK. He had been employed with the UN children’s agency and the Association for the Protection of All Children (ACORD) — organizations supported by and partnering with Save the Children. Roland van Hauwermeiren, of Oxfam-Haiti infamy, allowed to resign from Merlin after allegations he was sexually abusing and exploiting beneficiaries in Liberia. Save the Children acquired Merlin. Then there is the concealment of sexual misconduct and abuse of power by Save the Children’s former senior managers Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox.

While Sohail Ayaz’s case may seem extreme, it is not. There are many predators like Ayaz in our profession. For example, the late Ellsworth Culver, co-founder and former president of US-based Mercy Corps, has recently been exposed for the crimes he committed against his own daughter — whistleblower and survivor Tania Culver Humphrey. It is not yet known, if it ever will be, how many other children he, and others at Mercy Corps, may have raped and trafficked.

Gregory Dow, indicted in Pennsylvania on child sex trafficking charges, was exposed by Kenyan journalist Edmond Nyabola in Preying Missionaries. Jacob Goldberg details more abuse in his VICE article In Myanmar, a Nonprofit Icon Enjoyed Foreign Funding Despite Allegations of Sexual Abuse. Finlay Young and Kathleen Flynn exposed predators in Liberia in Unprotected. Emmy nominated documentary UN Sex Abuse Scandal, by Sam Collyns and Ramita Navai, details UN predators. In federal custody in New York on child sex trafficking charges is another recent example of Joel Davis, a young predator crafting a high-profile humanitarian career until his arrest.

Joel Davis’ Criminal Complaint

There is ample evidence that the humanitarian sector has a pedophile problem as big as, perhaps larger, than the Catholic Church. We must not dismiss cases like Sohail Ayaz, Joel Davis, Peter Dalglish, Gregory Dow, Peter Newell, etc. as outliers. They are not. These are realistic examples of all too common predatory behavior in our profession. Sohail Ayaz’s arrest provides critical insight into how predators use the humanitarian sector to commit crimes against children — crimes we must stop enabling.

Predators use professional positions and workplace computer networks to commit their crimes. Networking is an essential component of the crime. The aid sector; however, has refused to secure our workplaces, on-line and off-line, as part of our safeguarding efforts. As a sector, we have not even acknowledged how easily and how many predators use the humanitarian profession to access and traffic children.

Ayaz did not commit these crimes alone. He networked with other predators. Many of whom, no doubt, are employed in the international aid sector. Ayaz’s Pakistan arrest must prompt a comprehensive investigation into everyone in the aid sector Ayaz networked with. At the very least, Ayaz’s arrest should encourage current British Secretary of State for International Development Alok Sharma, to consider removing Save the Children from the planned humanitarian sex offender registry — Operation Soteria.

British Secretary Secretary of State for International Development Alok Sharma

Child predators rarely stop raping and trafficking children. They move from one profession, community or country to another as they destroy hundreds of lives. The aid sector must do better to safeguard our workplaces and profession from predators like Sohail Ayaz.

We have failed too many children for too long.

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Dr. Lori Handrahan has been a humanitarian and an academic for over twenty years. Her book Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape details how predators operate. She can be reached on her website www.LoriHandrahan.com and Twitter @LoriHandrahan2

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