Mahadi Al Hasnat

A female worker, who returned from Saudi Arabia along with 25 others on Tuesday, talks to reporters at Dhaka airport after

A female worker, who returned from Saudi Arabia along with 25 others on Tuesday, talks to reporters at Dhaka airport after their arrivalSyed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

A total of 387 Bangladeshi female workers have returned home with horrible experiences of torture by their employers in Saudi Arabia amidst claims from government officials that Bangladeshi women are doing well there.

Around 26 female workers arrived in Bangladesh on Tuesday afternoon, and another seven arrived from Saudi Arabia in the evening.

Earlier, 360 women came back to Bangladesh between May and June 10, as they were tortured and violated by their Saudi employers.

According to Brac, around 5,000 female workers have returned to Bangladesh in the last three years.

The returnees claimed there were irregularities regarding the payment of their wages during their stay in KSA.

With a view to securing a better life, the poverty-stricken women, mostly from rural areas, went to work as housemaids in Saudi Arabia, but now they have returned empty-handed after Eid-ul-Fitr.

Some of the returnees who arrived on Tuesday night shared their experience of unexpected incidents they faced in Saudi Arabia and slammed the government for its indifferent attitude towards them.

“They [Saudi employers] are inhuman and violent. They whipped me twice or thrice a day and sometimes poured boiled water on my body. They often gave electric shocks on my legs,” Kulsum Begum, a resident of Shariatpur, who went to Saudi Arabia leaving her one-year child to change her fortunes, told the Dhaka Tribune.

“I would like to urge the government not to send a single female worker to Saudi Arabia. The cruelty of the employers knows no limits. There is no justice for people like us,” said a tearful Kulsum.

Shamsun Nahar, a widow who resides in Bhola, said she went to Saudi Arabia to earn a living a month before the start of Ramadan.

“I worked there for two months, but my employers did not pay my wages. When I asked for payment, they beat me up and sent me to jail. I got out yesterday (Monday) and immediately returned home,” she said.

Hazera Begum, a widow in Kishoreganj district, lost her husband in a road accident few years ago.  With two children, she often had to starve and their schooling appeared to be stopped.

One day Hazera learnt about going abroad for earning money. She flew to Saudi Arabia in February and started working at a family’s home with a contract of Tk16,000 per month.

Her dream was shattered within a few months.

“I worked there for four months but they did not pay me a single penny. They treated me like an animal. They used to beat me up every morning and evening. I felt like I was in the hell,” Hazera said.

“I went abroad leaving my children to change my luck. Now I have come back empty handed. I do not know how to console myself. Who will take responsibility of my family and children?” she lamented.

However, government officials said most female workers in Saudi Arabia are safe but some of them face torture due to some specific reasons.

“Some 80% of the women workers are working without any trouble while the remaining 20% have different issues,” said Namita Halder, secretary at the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment.

“Those who have come back are fewer in numbers. The native people of Saudi Arabia eat bread but our girls are fond of rice. They do not understand Arabic language. They are coming back as they failed to cope with the foreign culture and environment,” she said.

Shariful Hasan, head of Brac’s Migration Program, said the number of women tortured could not be made a quantifiable statistic, as human beings are not goods.

“When countries like Philippines and Sri Lanka have stopped sending their female workers to Saudi Arabia, it means there are some problems. We need to find out whether we are ready to mitigate these problems,” he said.

He said the government and embassy officials should ask Saudi officials to take action against the perpetrators.