After months of torture and alleged sexual exploitation in Saudi Arabia, a Hyderabad woman finally returned home on Saturday.
Zainab Begum, a resident of Kalaphattar, had been stuck in Saudi since she travelled there on work on June 13, 2017. She said that she was promised a job at a hospital in Saudi Arabia with a salary of 1200 Saudi riyal per month by a travel agent named Mohammed Ismail.
After she reached the capital Riyadh, she was taken to Hail and made to work as a domestic worker instead.
“There were some 40 members in that family and I had to work minimum 18 to 20 hours. I was beaten up for not getting up early in the morning. There used to be a gathering of around 50 to 75 persons every weekend, for which I had to cook biryani. I had to do the entire work from cooking to washing utensils to cleaning work in the entire home,” Zainab said.
After working for 3 months without proper food and accommodation, and not being given any salary, she was transferred to another house.
Zainab said that the workload was even more after that and alleged that she was being sexually exploited.
During one such instance, she ran into the bathroom and locked herself in. When the employer tried to break the door open, she drank phenyl and tried to commit suicide.
For nearly 15 days, Zainab was unable to eat or drink anything and was vomiting blood. Despite this, she was not taken to the hospital. She was kept locked up in a room and when she recovered slightly was asked to start working again.
“Once the kafeel (sponsor) visited the employer’s house and met me. I asked him to send me back to India. The kafeel said that he had paid Rs 3 lakh to the agent and that the agreement was for 2 years,” she said.
The kafeel said that the only way Zainab could return to India was if she returned the amount or found another woman to replace her.
Zainab also said that when she told the kafeel about not being paid and being sexually exploited “he just laughed and went away.”
The Hyderabad woman could not even contact her family as she was not allowed to keep her phone.
Once, when she went outside to throw garbage, she narrated her ordeal and pleaded for help from a Bengali person who was working in another house nearby. Through the man, she spoke to her son and informed her family of the torture.
On learning of this, the family met the local agent, Mohammed Ismail, and demanded that Zainab be brought back.
In November last year, the family approached Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) spokesperson Amjed Ullah Khan and narrated their woes. Following this, Khan brought the issue to the notice of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Telangana NRI Affairs Minister KT Rama Rao, and the Indian Embassy in Riyadh.
(Zainab after her return, with her family and Amjed Ullah Khan)
Embassy officials then met Zainab and counselled her, before communicating that she must be rescued immediately.
Meanwhile the Telangana government also wrote a letter to the Centre and requested that Zainab Begum be rescued as soon as possible.
After the matter was brought to the notice of the Hyderabad Commissioner of Police, the Kalaphattar police registered a case, and arrested Mohammed Ismail and sent him to remand.
After reaching Hyderabad, Zainab met her family and Khan, and thanked the MBT spokesperson for helping her.
Zainab also demanded stern action against the travel agent who cheated her and cautioned women who are planning to go to Gulf countries to do a thorough background check. She also thanked officials of the state and central governments for rescuing her from the nightmare.