Bangladesh: Oppressed and tortured abroad, women workers find no respite at home

Written by Saddif Ovee | Published on: May 25, 2018

Laboni (pseudonym), one of those workers who faced inhuman torture there, returned home along with 65 other women workers by an Air Arabia flight at 9pm on Saturday


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One of the Bangladeshi women workers at Dhaka airport after returning from Saudi Arabia Bangla Tribune
 
The oppressed and tortured Bangladeshi women workers who are returning from Saudi Arabia are apparently becoming burdens to their family members.

Laboni (pseudonym), one of those workers who faced inhuman torture there, returned home along with 65 other women workers by an Air Arabia flight at 9pm on Saturday.

She went to Saudi Arabia two years ago, to the town of Al Kharaj, about 77 kilometres from Riyadh, and took a job for a monthly salary of 1,000 Saudi Riyal.

At first she was kept in a jail-like place for 15 days. Then she was taken to Al Kharaj to her employer, where she worked for four months.

During the four months she worked there, she was not allowed to talk to her family members back in Bangladesh, Laboni told the Bangla Tribune.

She said: “I would sweep the floors of a house that had 10 rooms. I was not given food properly. My employer tortured me a lot."

“When I wanted to quit, he tortured me even more.” 

Laboni further said there were four members in her employer’s family.  “Before going to Saudi Arabia, I gave Tk60,000 to a broker named Miraj. He told me the place where I was going was very nice.”

“But I was sold to my employer. After I escaped from that house, I got caught and was sold by a company for Tk6 lakh to another owner.”

She said: "There are more than 100 girls like me there. They are also forced into prostitution. I once got a chance to call my husband in Bangladesh and after that I was rescued through the Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia.”

“And now, after everything, my in-laws do not want to take me back. Even my husband is keeping mum, listening to his parents. I have been staying at my sister’s house for the last few days. It seems, they will not take me back,” said a grief-stricken Laboni.
When contacted, her husband at first did not want to comment. However, he later said: “My parents do not want her to come back, after all that has happened. I cannot go against my parents’ will.”

Like Laboni, Afsana Khanam also came back to Bangladesh a few days ago after staying only two months in Saudi Arabia.

When asked why she returned, Afsana said in a heavy voice: "I was confined in a house for a week in a room with six other girls when I first got there. I went there giving Tk20,000 to a broker and was told that I would get paid 1,000 Saudi Riyals monthly.”
Afsana suffered torture similar to Laboni’s. “I was beaten a lot by the employer’s wife. I did not understand their language. She used to beat me with a stick if I was late in doing my work. Then I was sent to another family. I fled from there after facing the same torture."

“I was caught by a local man who forcibly took me to a camp. I was tortured there too. Later, I was sent back to Bangladesh.”

They did not even return her passport before letting her go. “I have returned empty handed. And when I called my brother after landing in Dhaka, he told me not to go to my village. The villagers are speaking ill of me, he said. I have no idea where I will go,” Afsana said, breaking down in tears.

Even after immense suffering, these two women did not get the sympathy they deserved from their own families and society. There are many women workers who are also facing such cruelty after managing to return home alive.

Brac's Migration Program officials say they have been trying to talk to the families of many of these victims, but apparently to no avail.

In some cases the family members do take in the women, but then they are kept in isolation. The majority of returnees are being deprived of their rights, said officials.

Shariful Hasan, head of Brac's Migration Program, said: “We try to explain the situation and convince these families using different methods. Many of them agree to take them back, but then keep these women in isolation.”

“We have arranged shelters and counselling for these women. But what we need is social awareness and humanitarianism. These women went there to work and returned after being tortured. Where is their fault in all this?” he asked.

Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune