Promised a beautician’s job, Samina Begum went to Saudi Arabia in July 2016 with hopes of a higher pay and a better life.
But the foreign land she thought to be a place of opportunities turned into a nightmare. Samina returned to Hyderabad on Sunday with the help of the Indian Embassy after an 18-month-long ordeal where she was mistreated, overworked, not paid, and not even given food.
Samina appealed to the police to crack down on the agent who cheated her and bring him to book.
Samina and another man Mohammad Abdul Nayeem’s jobs in Hyderabad were arranged by an agent Mohammad Haji, who worked with Trio Tracks Travel.
The agent not only cheated them but also passed them off as husband and wife and sent them to work in the same house as a driver and housemaid.
“He (the agent) told me that it was a beautician’s job and the pay would be good. But once I reached there, they made me do housework. They made me work in 2-3 houses,” rues Samina in a video posted by Amjed Ullah Khan on Facebook. Amjed Ullah Khan is the spokesperson for Majlis Bachao Tahreek, a political organisation.
Samina alleges that her employers did not give her food on time, and made her work continuously. “Even then, they would accuse me of not working properly,” she says.
Samina was allegedly made to go to wedding halls and take food from there for the kafeel (employer) family as well as for herself and Nayeem.
Amjed Ullah Khan explains that there is a system in the remote place that Samina worked, where homes and wedding halls would leave some portions of ready-made food for people to take. This was the food that Samina was made to hunt for and procure for their consumption.
“I did all this for 2-3 months. Then I told them I couldn’t do this anymore and wanted to return to India. But they refused. They told me I have to give them Rs 2 lakh, only then they will allow me to leave,” Samina narrates.
Her health also deteriorated as a result. “When I would vomit blood and my chest would hurt, I would ask them to take me to a hospital. But they simply brushed it off saying it was because of the cold,” she says.
Within three months of joining, Nayeem suffered a heart attack. The kafeel family let him return but only after Nayeem’s family paid Rs 50,000 and also bought the ticket. But Samina was not allowed to return home. She alleges that she wasn’t even allowed to talk on the phone for more than half an hour in a month.
The return home
Finally, in December 2017, Samina’s parents approached Amjed Ullah Khan, who escalated the matter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Having returned home after months of torture, Samina said, “These people are only concerned about work, and won’t even give you food. They bring a person down to their knees and don’t listen no matter how much you plead.”
She was only paid six months’ salary, even though she worked there for about a year and a half.
“I hope the police take strict action against the agent,” she said.