“They pounced on me almost every single night. I fainted at times but they didn’t stop. They’d beat me up if I protested.” This is how Bangladeshi worker Sumi Akter, who returned from Saudi Arabia after five and a half months, described her ordeal.
“I went there for work but why was I subjected to such inhuman physical and sexual torture?” she asked.
Sumi, daughter of day-labourer Md Rafiqul Islam of Panchagarh’s Boda upazila, went to the kingdom as a domestic help on 30 May.
She said her husband, Nurul Islam, instigated her to go to Saudi Arabia as a domestic help.
Her employer started physical and sexual torture on her seven days into her job. She learned from one of her buyers Kafil that she had been sold to him at Tk 400,000.
Sumi, who studied up to eighth grade, came to Dhaka like many young women to work in the country’s thriving readymade garment sector. She met Nurul there and within six months, they were married.
Nurul sent her to Saudi Arabia through ‘Ruposhi Bangla Overseas’. Her first employer regularly tortured her. When she fell ill, the man sold her to another person in the bordering area of Yemen for at SAR 22,000. The new ‘buyer’ was no different.
“I was confined to a house for around 15 day before I was rescued. They didn’t give me enough to eat. I cried a lot and begged them to allow me to speak with my husband. They gave me a phone at last and I recorded my ordeal there and sent the clip to my husband,” she said.
Nurul shared the video on social media which later went viral. She was seen asking for help. “Please take me back. They’ll kill me. I want to return to my children and family. I’ll be killed if I stay here for some more days,” she is heard saying.
Nurul filed a general diary with Paltan police station in the capital in this regard and lodged a complaint with the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training on 22 October.
Besides, he submitted an application to BRAC’s migration programme on 27 October seeking their help to bring back his wife safely. Later, with the help of BRAC, he lodged a complaint with Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry.
Responding to the complaint, Bangladesh consulate in Jeddah rescued Sumi with the help of Saudi police.
She was brought back on Friday morning. An Air Arabia flight carrying her landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 7:15am where Director of Wage Earners’ Welfare Board Md Jahirul Islam received her.
Sumi thanked everyone, particularly prime minister Sheikh Hasina, adding that she probably would not have returned home without her help.
Her father, Rafiqul Islam, said she had gone to Saudi Arabia in the hope of better days but they could not imagine that she would face inhuman torture there. He thanked all who helped to bring her home.
Her mother said they could not sleep after watching the video of her daughter. “My child has returned home. I don’t want anything else,” said Mollika Begum.