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Torture in Saudi Arabia: 19 Bangladeshi women return

  • Published at 10:08 pm October 15th, 2018
Saudi Arabia female migrant workers
File photo: Female migrant workers who have returned from Saudi Arabia, at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Monday; October 15, 2018 Mehedi Hassan/Dhaka Tribune

'They (Saudi employers) confined me to a room without food or water for a week'

Unable to bear barbaric torture at the hands of foreign employers and wage related irregularities, 19 Bangladeshi women who used to work as domestic help in Saudi Arabaia returned to Bangladesh on Monday. 

The returnees all arrived in Dhaka from Saudi Arabia’s Dammam city on a Jet Airways flight at 12.40pm, according to non-governmental organization Brac. 

“Female workers are coming back from Saudi Arabia almost every day, due to several reasons including sexual abuse, physical torture and wage related irregularities. Today (on Monday) we received 19 women who went to the country to work as domestic help,” said Brac Manager (migration operations) ABM Farhad Al Karim. 

“Some of these women claimed to have been abused and tortured by their employers, while others mentioned salary related irregularities,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. 

“Brac has provided emergency services, including food and temporary shelter, to these distressed women,” he added. 

Monwara Begum, an elderly woman from Gazipur who went to Saudi Arabia three months ago, said: “I have come back due to barbaric physical torture by my employers’ family members.” 

“They beat me so severely that I was hospitalized for few days. When I got out and was sent to my employer’s residence again, they confined me to a room without food or water for a week,” she added. “I survived by eating rice I had taken with me from Bangladesh, and by drinking water from the bathroom.

Monwara further said she eventually managed to escape the house and took shelter at the Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia. “Embassy officials bought me the air ticket to come back.” 

Another victim, Ayesha Begum from Dhamrai, said she experienced physical and mental torture by her employers almost every day. 

“I had gone to Saudi Arabia with many dreams, but all are gone now. They treated me like a slave, and whipped me if anything was wrong.  I never had such a hellish experience in my entire life,” she said. 

“I worked there for eight months, but they paid me for only two,” Ayesha claimed. 

Some returnees said they had been tortured with electric shocks, boiling water, and other inhuman means, in addition to being overburdened with work. 

In July, researcher and women’s rights activist Maleka Begum said 735,575 Bangladeshi women are employed abroad in various countries, mostly in the Middle East region. Among them, 234, 831 women went to Saudi Arabia following a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015.   

In the last three years, around 5,000 Bangladeshi women have returned from Saudi Arabia, bringing allegations of torture against their employers. 

According to Brac, more than 1,500 women have come back from Saudi Arabia in 2018. 

In addition to claims of physical and mental torture, Government officials have said that many workers are coming back after failing to cope with the foreign environment, language and culture. 

“It is true that some women workers are coming back from among the hundreds of thousands that have gone to work abroad. There are many reasons behind their return, and allegations of torture are not always authentic,” Md Aminul Islam, additional secretary (admin and finance) of the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, said last month. 

“We have repeatedly informed the Saudi government about the incidents. A few problems were solved, and a few remained unsolved. This is a continuous process, and our efforts to solve the problems will continue,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.