Sunday, August 18, 2013

The boyfriend of a prostitute

I wanted to write something about a Dutch man who started a blog lately. He calls himself Mark van der Beer, but this is not his real name. You can find his blog here, which is written in the Dutch language:

And he also has an English version:

At first I thought he was the same person as the prostitute Zondares who also has a blog, but I discovered I was probably wrong (, the reason is secret). BTW: read Zondares’ Dutch blog here:

I will tell something about him. Since a year ago, he has a relationship with a Romanian prostitute who works on de Wallen in Amsterdam. His story is special because he actually met her as a client. During the second visit he talked with her in her workroom for several hours, until the closure of the windows. Later he visited her again, and then they went to her place, after which they became romantically involved. After several weeks they started to live together.

She knows many prostitutes on de Wallen, and he also knows dozens of prostitutes in the meantime, of whom many are Romanian and Bulgarian. He can assure that forced prostitution is actually very rare. At first when he visited her, he was really scared that she was forced to work in prostitution. But she reassured him, she works independently. Two years earlier she started for herself, purely for the money. The funny thing is that according a different version of his story (which he told somewhere else on the internet) she told him that she was one of the few girls who wasn’t forced to work in prostitution. This is totally contrary to his other claims. I asked him why she actually said that. He believes she didn’t actually say she was one of the few who were not forced into prostitution, because he then believed that forced prostitution was quite common. He says that he probably interpreted her as saying that.

The next part is mainly derived from these blog posts from his blog:

When his girlfriend decided to come to the Netherlands, this wasn’t exactly an unconsidered decision. His girlfriend had thought about this for years and she hesitated if she should do it. But this option seemed to be a lot more attractive, because in Romania she only earned 150 euro per month, with a well paid job, for which she had to work between 10 and 12 hours per day, under a tyrant of a boss. She knew a boy, whose girlfriend also was a prostitute, and he asked her a couple of times if she also wanted to accompany them (to a country abroad), and she repeatedly refused. But after years of weighing up the pros and cons, she finally decided to do it, and then she accompanied them to the Netherlands.

They brought her to Amsterdam, and they would offer her a place to sleep, and help her with the registration in the Netherlands, so she could start working. Obviously they demanded some financial compensation for this, after all they made expenses for her. She didn’t object, and so it happened.

Approximately half a year ago (prior to July 25, 2013), the police wanted to interrogate his girlfriend. She was lured to the police office under the pretence of asking her something about her slum landlord. But it turned out that the police wanted her to testify in a case against three Bulgarian boys, who were arrested several weeks earlier because they were suspected of human trafficking. After she arrived at the police office, it turned out that these boys were a couple of Bulgarians with whom she was already acquainted. The boys all had a girlfriend who worked as prostitutes, but they really weren’t human traffickers according to his girlfriend (and Mark). His girlfriend honestly answered all questions by the police, after which the police also showed her some files.

One of the files concerned a good female friend of hers, whom Mark was also acquainted with. She was a Bulgarian girl who worked here as a prostitute. But in the meantime she had returned to Bulgaria. She had already worked in prostitution for a couple of years, and her boyfriend who was in the United States of America wanted her to stop working in prostitution. At first she didn’t do it, after which she decided to go back to Bulgaria to make her boyfriend happy. This however was of short duration, because a couple of months later she returned to Amsterdam again, and she started to work in prostitution again, against the wishes of her boyfriend.

Everything went well, until her brother found out what she did here, and as a result she started to have problems with her family. Because of this, she decided to return to Bulgaria again, to give her family an explanation. After she arrived in Bulgaria, she explained to her mother that her boyfriend had coerced her to do this work, and that in reality she didn’t want to do it. Mark says this is obviously pure nonsense, but it was always better than to admit that she wanted to be a prostitute herself. According to Mark, this makes it somewhat understandable why stories go around of women who are supposedly forced into prostitution. It is easier to pretend you are a victim, than to admit you are a prostitute.

One of the girls previously worked for a pimp who brought her to the Netherlands to work in prostitution. The girl didn’t complain about this, but she had to hand over all her money to her pimp. One of the Bulgarian boys offered the pimp money in exchange for the girl. This way he bought the girl free, after which he never interfered with her again. The girl kept on drawing the attention of this boy who had bought her free, and ultimately they entered into a romantic relationship.

For a while the Bulgarian boys were still on remand (in jail), despite the fact that their girlfriends do this work voluntarily. Mark and his girlfriend still saw them sitting at a cafe terrace with the three of them. Not that Mark and his girlfriend want to have a little chat with them, because despite the fact that the boys are not guilty of human trafficking, they also are no darlings, so to speak. One of these boys regularly beat his girlfriend black and blue, and all three boys were involved in other activities like theft, fraud and drug trafficking. Mark says that in a certain way it is good that these boys are jailed, but unfortunately for the wrong reason, which also paints a wrong picture of the reality of prostitution.

Another file was about his girlfriend herself. In this file it was also written that she came here because of human trafficking. The reason according to Mark was that the police hadn’t seen her in all those years without a boyfriend, so she just had to be a victim of human trafficking. Subsequently, his girlfriend became very angry. According to Mark this is understandable, because if this is the way that the police arrives at suspicions of human trafficking, and people are innocently jailed, then this is truly outrageous. Worst of all, her identity as a witness would also be made known in the file. The Bulgarian boys undoubtedly think that she made an incriminating statement against them. She demanded that her named would be removed, but the police pointed out that she had signed the testimony. She was scared for weeks, because she was afraid that some friends of the Bulgarian boys would take revenge.

At one point two of the boys were released, one is still imprisoned, and all the girls still worked on de Wallen. Sometimes Mark and his girlfriend see them walking. The women then look at his girlfriend with an angry expression, because they obviously believe that his girlfriend has testified and lied about their boyfriends.

He doesn’t deny forced prostitution exists, but given the conduct of the police, and the false testimonies which are sometimes made by girls, he believes it happens less often than is generally thought. He says his girlfriend knows about 200 or 300 girls who work on de Wallen, and he himself knows dozens girls with whom he and his girlfriend regularly sit at a cafe terrace. According to him, these are girls with expensive designer clothes, such as Gucci D&G, Armani, Louis Vuitton. He says that Guess is also a big favourite among the ladies.

When he sits at a cafe terrace on the Dam, he sees girls who do this work walk by, one by one. They are easily identifiable by their designer clothes, sunglasses, a thick mop of blonde or black hair in a ponytail, and because they are slender and walk with their chest stuck out forward. They prefer to walk on sneakers, because after all they stand the whole day or evening on high heels. According to Mark, if you know what to look for, you can easily discern them.

Mark asks his readers if all these girls are forced, if all these girls are victims of human trafficking. He asks his readers if people truly believe that these girls with the most expensive designer clothes are forced by a pimp. How does a person explain that? When a pimp buys those clothes for them, then they lose more money on this, compared to what they earn with their lady. Or is it simply true that most of these women chose their profession themselves, which gives them the ability to buy all those expensive stuff? Mark believes that in that case human trafficking and forced prostitution must be easy to detect. When they wear expensive designer clothes they are not forced, the pimps after all are not crazy, en won’t spend thousands of euros on clothes for a girl from whom they want to make money.

When he walks around de Wallen, which is very close to his home, he sees around 19:00 that all girls go to their work. One by one they wear expensive designer clothes. So he surmises that they are probably not forced. He asks the reader where all the girls are who are forced, or are the police and other organizations looking at the prostitutes with a tunnel vision? So focussed on recognizing human trafficking and forced prostitution, that everything could be viewed as a ‘sign of human trafficking’. He says it could explain why his girlfriend is known with the police as a victim of human trafficking, and it could explain the numbers of the police regarding the number of ‘supposed’ victims of human trafficking, and also regarding the numbers that you read in lots of research reports.

The following section is derived from this post:

Mark believes that there are too many rules which make life difficult for foreign prostitutes. First of all, as a Romanian prostitute, you need a residence permit. A working permit will be only allowed for special professions, for which there is a lot of demand but little supply. Mark believes prostitution belongs to this category, but for some reason it doesn’t. It is also difficult for Romanian prostitutes to acquire a work permit because they only speak Romanian and French. English is highly undervalued in Romanian. A Romanian prostitute also needs to be registered with the Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel). According to the law, a prostitute is an independent entrepreneur without personnel, and it is obligatory to be registered with the Chamber of Commerce. But to be registered, you first need to have an address and be registered with one of the Dutch municipalities. So you first need to find a house. That is very difficult in the Netherlands, so foreign prostitutes often end up with slum landlords whom they have to pay lots of money. And you also need a bank account if you want to be registered with the Chamber of Commerce. And once this has been achieved, you have to find a brothel. The brothel owner could be very paranoid, because often brothels are held responsible if something bad happens (like illegal or forced prostitution).

Mark acknowledges that prostitutes could be exploited by slum landlords. His girlfriend at first lived in a very dirty house (or little room) which was badly maintained, with mice and vermin, a dysfunctional washing machine which the landlord didn’t want to replace, a kitchen where the tap didn’t work, a dysfunctional shower, a bedroom which hardly had room for a bed, and… many other things. But they live in a good house now.

The next section is from this blog post:

He describes sitting at a cafe terrace with his girlfriend and two of her female friends who also work in prostitution. When he asks the women about human trafficking he gets all kinds of negative reactions. They say: human trafficking, fuck off! They don’t agree with the statement that more than half or even 90% of the prostitutes are victims of human trafficking. Nonsense, the girls shout! They give him arguments and examples why these stories are nonsense. Everybody tells her own story, about how the police thought that each of them were victims of human trafficking. One of the girls shouts loudly: ‘Man, I did this work since I was sixteen years old in Switzerland, then in Italy, and only then in the Netherlands!’ She tells how she had to arrange everything herself, and how it is made hard for them to start working in the Netherlands. The women all agree, human trafficking does practically not occur on de Wallen in Amsterdam. It is the police which sees everything as a ‘sign’ of human trafficking.

He knows exactly what they mean. At first he sometimes brought a can of drink to his girlfriend at her workplace, when she forgot it. But since a Dutch friend of hers, who also had a prostitute as his girlfriend, was arrested when he brought her a sandwich, and because as a result of this he ended up in jail for three months because he allegedly was a human trafficker, Mark’s girlfriend doesn’t want him to drop by anymore.

The next section is derived from this blog post:

He says that the brothel owners completely squeeze out the women. The women have to pay 150 euro per day (per shift that is), while the prostitutes have to bring their own goods. When a person for whatever reason breaks the window of a room where a woman works, she has to pay for a new window herself, which costs 300 for a small window.

The women are allowed one day off per week. During this one day they don’t have to pay rent. The brothel owners decide which day this is. If a prostitute doesn’t agree, or of it is impossible for her for whatever reason, then she just has bad luck. Obviously they can take a day off during another day, but then they have to pay the rent for that day, despite the fact that they don’t work then. The brothel owner promises to rent their window to somebody else, so that they can get their rent back during another day (they don’t have to pay for one day), but often this coincidentally doesn’t happen. Mark believes this often doesn’t happen because the brothel owner is paid anyway by the prostitute who has a day off.

The next section is based on this blog post:

Mark says that women with a fixed room have more certainty, because they always have a room where they can work, provided that they pay for it. The window rents could vary, but the highest price of a room is around 150 euro per day. (Well, a prostitute told me her room cost 160 euro per day.) When a person wants to go on vacation for two weeks, they have to pay 6X2=12 days in advance. This is a risk for women, and this is the reason why many women keep on working when they are little bit ill.

He says that during their work the women are the target of everything and everybody who walks around de Wallen. People laugh at them, or spit them straight in the face, or they are being shouted at. The work is heavy because of the many remarks the women receive. Mark says that unfortunately the large majority people treat the women like old garbage.

Well, I hope that Mark is right that forced prostitution is rare on de Wallen. I don’t agree with him about everything, certainly. He believes that because women have to go to the brothel owners alone, with their own passports, that this is proof that they work voluntarily, because this way they could easily escape. He says this for instance in the comment section of this post:

What I understand is that abusive pimps threaten to do all kinds of things to prostitutes, like using violence against them, setting the house of family members on fire, threatening to kill or beat family members, etc... I read verdicts on and then you can read how abusive pimps order the women to go to the brothels operators themselves, without the pimp’s guidance. Why don’t the women escape? Well, because they are threatened? It is a very simple answer.

And I don’t agree with Mark that forced prostitutes don’t walk around in designer clothes, and if they do wear designer clothes then they must be working voluntarily. First of all, there are degrees of coercion. A pimp could demand 50% or 80% of a girl (or whatever), or else he does something badly. If she earns lots of money, she still has enough to buy designer clothes. And some abusive pimps obviously want to keep the women satisfied to a certain degree, so they don’t walk away. The pimps could give the women a little bit of money, or buy designer clothes for them. I don’t see a contradiction. Another possibility is that the women already own designer clothes prior to being forced into prostitution. They wear these clothes during their free time.

After pushing him in the same comment section as I referred to before, he does admit that there are indeed men who take away money for prostitutes, but it goes a little bit different than is reported in the media. He admits that there are men who promise their girlfriend to save the money so they can buy a house together in the future, but in reality they keep it for themselves. Sometimes it happens that the boyfriend runs away with the money, and the girlfriend is left with nothing. But he is of the opinion that these women are not coerced. He says the cases that he and his girlfriend know about, all chose to work in prostitution. And he says that obviously some prostitutes are strongly persuaded by their boyfriend, but this doesn’t mean that the women are coerced with a gun against their head to come to the Netherlands not knowing that they would work in prostitution, or to do something that they don’t want to do at all. But I think, okay, they are not coerced, but they are tricked or conned. That still is a very awful thing that could happen to you!!!!

I also wanted to say something about something peculiar he said to me via email. He says that most prostitutes on de Wallen have an Albanian boyfriend, despite the fact that most prostitutes on de Wallen come from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. I asked him how that came about. Say, there is a hospital in Germany, and in that hospital work many Dutch women. Wouldn’t it be strange if most of these Dutch women have a Russian boyfriend? I think there must be some kind of weird connection. But Mark says this is not strange at all. He says that in the eyes of the women, Albanians show more respect to them. He asked this question a while ago to a female friend of his girlfriend. Romanian and Bulgarian men often look at the other women on de Wallen, even if they have a girl themselves who works there. This doesn’t show a lot of respect. Albanians on the other hand will never look at another woman, and also his friends won’t look at this girlfriend. It is a sort of code of honour, which the Albanians use to show respect to the other women.

Many Romanian and Bulgarian boys often visit another girl on de Wallen, while they have a girlfriend themselves who work there. The Albanians on the other hand, won’t do that. Also, none of his friends would go to his girlfriend. And even Albanians who don’t know this boyfriend, will walk in a big arc around the girl, out of respect.

I asked him how do these Albanians meet these women? This all looks a little suspicious. He says that these Albanians are often visitors of the prostitutes, but often it goes through networking. The women get to know another woman who already has an Albanian boyfriend, and this way they get into contact with another Albanian. It is the same situation as in the past on school, when you hung around with the same people in a group.

I asked him about the idea that Albanians live in a patriarchal culture and that the men are clearly the boss. In my opinion he describes the Albanian boys as loyal lap dogs. He says these Albanians really aren’t lap dogs, they just have respect for the women, nothing else. He says that most Albanians are involved in drug trafficking or something else that is illegal. Often they reside illegally in the Netherlands. He says from this point of view it is indeed true that the world of prostitution is shrouded by illegal things, but this has nothing to do with human trafficking.

I told another visitor of prostitutes what Mark said to me. He didn’t believe it, and he later asked his favourite (Romanian) prostitute on de Wallen if this is true. She said that indeed most Romanian prostitutes (70% she said) have an Albanian boyfriend, but she didn’t know if these Albanian men were their pimps.

Well, I think that the vacuum that Saban and co left, has been filled by Albanians.

I want to add a philosophical twitch to it. Mark van der Beer denies human trafficking, but must admit that some women are pushed to work in prostitution by their boyfriends, and some women are robbed or conned by their boyfriends or pimps. Frits Rouvoet (whom I wrote about previously on my blog) on the other hand says most prostitutes on de Wallen are forced, but when he actually describes them it seems as if most prostitutes work independently. They have other problems however, like not earning enough money, having emotional difficulties with their work, etc....

I think both Mark and Frits tell the truth. They have some general ideas about prostitution in their heads, but when they give examples of actual prostitutes, it doesn't fit their general image of prostitution. Then the truth is more nuanced.


UPDATE: I asked Eleni (or Elena) if the story is true that most prostitutes have an Albanian boyfriend. She believes this is not true. According to her, Bulgarian prostitutes often have Bulgarian boyfriends, and Romanian prostitutes often have Romanian boyfriends. But she only knows prostitutes who work in the Goldbergersteeg, the alley where she works herself. She doesn't believe that Mark's girlfriend could know most prostitutes on de Wallen. She says prostitutes often talk bullshit. She asked me if Mark's girlfriend knows her too?

UPDATE 2: Mark van der Beer made a surprising revelation again in a comment on his blog (7 september 2013 12:35). He says that his girlfriend is regularly visited by men who want her to work for them. She refuses them all. He also says that many girls fall for the wrong guy who only want to profit from the women. Often these men are Albanians regarding Romanian women, and Bulgarians regarding Bulgarian women. According to him there is no coercion. The prostitutes are only so naive to let the finances be handled by their boyfriends, who keenly make use of it. He believes it is the fault of the women themselves. In my opinion this is just his point of view, he thinks the women themselves are to blame. But I find it horrible!!!! How awful that these women are so terribly exploited and deceived by these men. This is so evil!!! All the awful stereotypes about prostitutes are again confirmed by Mark van der Beer.

Nothing has changed.


Mark van der Beer said...

Interesting post, and good to read you have understood many of the things I've wrote.

Of course things are always open for a debate. I'm not saying I'm telling the truth and that my truth is the only truth. Often the truth consists out of a mix of various accounts.

I'm also not saying human trafficking or forced prostitution doesn't exists. I'm nearly pointing out the rarity of it happening in the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

My blog is nearly there to inform people about the reality behind this world, and pointing out that not everything is what politicians, media and people say they are.

But like I said, these is my truth, and I don't know what other people are seeing.

Cliente X said...

Hi, Mark. I'm a client and I've been the bf of some girls (not just romanian but also brazilian and colombian) that worked in prostitution. And I'll not be anymore. Surprised? Had I bad experiences with 'em? Mainly I had a very good time with all of them. Am I ashamed of having a prostitute as a gf? No way! I was even proud of it. Then why? It's quite simple. If ur gf works in prostitution u are "the pimp". U can, and will, go to jail. I have met girls that were blackmailed by police, threatened to have their bf and relatives sent to jail if they didn't pay. If they are alone, they say they will send them back to their countries (many girls have here same troubles with her legal status, some of then even PAY to be hired in a "normal" job to get the authorizations needed to live here... it's mad, our system says they do everything to help prostitutes but the reality is that EVERYTHING is done to fuck them).

Now, I am very cautious with my friends prostitutes. It's not wise to let police, or others girls who work for the police, to see us together. It's quite... paranoic. Fuck, this world is so, so, SO DIFFERENT of how media and "official reports" -as the ones donkey reads- depict... Mark says he is angry when he hears the mainstream stories about prositution. I'm FRIGHTENED. Which dark interests can have out own authorities to build up a so evident LIE? Yes, I'm convinced they are liars, that they know the truth. Even Mark that has spent just one year knowing this world (I have spent eight) is stunned how big the lie is. And Donkey, u'd think as us if u were able to know this reality from inside, speaking with the prostitutes. Do u see? It's not so hard. If u are a nice guy they will open u their lives and their homes. U need to overcome your fears and get the friendship of the girls, then u will see that all ur actual beliefs (that Mark and myself had, it's natural, we hear the same EVERYWHERE AND EVERYTIME) are just bullship, pure crap.

Mark its not saying that girls are not victims of human traffick because they can move alone or say that they were not trafficked and work in prostitution bcause they want to. He KNOWS WELL the girls, how they live DAY AFTER DAY. So do I. But I think that really there is a HUGE PROBLEM of human trafficking. It's called DEPORTATIONS and we all pay the mafias (States) that kidnap ppl with our taxes. Oh, btw, this is also a robbery (taxation). How can be surprised that our aothorities lie if they are used to commit all kinds of felonies? We are governed by delinquents. They are the ones that must be in jail. I dunno if u know latest news from Spain, but a newspaper has shown that our president (prime minister) has lied about an illegal financiation affair (caso Bárcenas). We have a fuckin' CRIMINAL as the head of gvt, what can we expect? (and they are the "conservatives", socialists are even -if it's possible- worse).

I have already told u that mafias don't come from abroad, they already are in our countries. ALL sws I know have told me that when they have been working in other FIRST WORLD countries like Denmark or Ireland they had to pay the police TO LET THEM WORK. Plus, there are several testimonies of girls (in spanish, sorry) telling this: that the only pimps are the policemen (I don't agree, I think that behind them the responsibles are the politicians). I strongly believe that the "traffick myth" was created to cover the reality of the illegal extortions. Yes, they have "official documents" to support their perspective but we have the words of the girls. Who do u trust, Donkey? The police or the girls?

U usually say that girls can't say that they have trafficked due their fear. But... have u anytime considered that there could be some reason for the police to no tell the truth? I praise u for doubt of our version, u have the right to do. But maybe u should also question what the authorities say.

Mark van der Beer said...

Quite a good point. Although I'm perhaps not so paranoid (yet) as you Cliente X, but indeed I completely agree with your idea that you don't truly understand this world until you've talked to the girls themselves, and see how they life day in, day out.

I'm not sure if police and politicians willfully withhold information, although I think some do.

Bottom line is though, that trying to uncover the truth from documents and reports is as good as flipping a coin in the air and expecting an answer on this question.

I do however think that perhaps there might be some difference between Spain and Holland in this case. I'm not sure about Spain's position oppose to prostitution, but I do know that there are some different motives and of course different cultural and religious aspects when it comes to prostitution in Spain and Holland.

I personally never like to write about international prostitution, for the very simple fact that we in Holland are in quite a different situation than from most other countries. We have legalized and regulated prostitution, and it's (according to the law) a normal job, just like an accountant or barber is.

But indeed, you don't truly understand this world, until you're in it, and perhaps that's also why politicians have so much trouble understanding this world. They only get information from organisations, who's goal it is to fight human trafficking. Of course those organisations aren't gonna say there isn't any or just few, that would just put them out of their job.

Cliente X said...

Mark, at first I didn't want to trust my own eyes and ears. Propaganda from media was SO STRONG here (and for what u write, I suppose that also in the Nl) about traffiking, sexual slavery and forced prostitution that I was fully sure of it altough I had not a single evidence of it. But that was depicted time after time on the news, u needed to be a martian to not know that!

U said u were angry, so do I. But after the years have passed and I have uncovered the truth, I'm more and more frightened. Police have been working for many years and... don't the realize that girls in prostitution are not forced? Why politics aren't interested at all in hear the prostitutes? Would not be better for them FIRST to know what happens and THEN to act and fund campaings or elaborate plans to "help" prostitutes?

Before I had not the answers. And the main pro sexual workers rights can't answer these questions. Now, I can. And it's a answer that I don't like.

Some activists are trying deseperately to make society aware of our situation. Between them, the one I admire most is the californian Norma Jean Almodovar.

Here u have a video about the extortions, backed on the abolitionist propaganda:

And a HUGE work about the reality of human trafficking. It's really wonderful! (all in english!)

Anonymous said...

Mark, Interestting posts and information. I was just there in Amsterdam and was serviced by a Romanian girl..I asked her why she does it and she blatantly said she needs the money. I don't understand it myself, this girl could have chosen a different life,, if the whore themselves out, they really can do just about anything...Unfortunately, I found myself liking her and her attitude. I would have gone back to her but seeing her on my last night was not so helpful..SHe was in the windows by the nightclub(at the end of the alley) with a tattoo on her back..sweet girl.

Do you know how long they stay there to prostitute?

Donkey said...

Depending on the source that you consult, between 2 and 8 years on average. It seems that the average period that prostitutes work in prostitution fluctuates heavily over time. I think due to the crisis, the period is now very short, because many new women have entered prostitution. So, I'll guess about 2 years.

Donkey said...

Oh, you mean de Wallen itself. I think on average it is very short. I think a couple of months on average. Some prostitutes stay for years. Many prostitutes are nomads, they change brothels all the time.

former anonymous said...

thanks Donkey..It was about DeWallen prostitutes. I figure they have to move around but I'll take it that they stay only a few months in DeWallen. I met a few good ones in Dewallen,would really like to see the one I saw in Sept 2013 again, but I won't be going again till next Sept 2014..She was one of the most courtious, lovely and adorable prostitute to date..makes you wonder why they do it..

Lucky_Luccano said...
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