Three women were identified and rescued by Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), and they are in the process of rescuing another woman.

Colour sketch of a woman sitting on a chair with her head over her kneesImage for Representation
news Trafficking Thursday, June 23, 2022 - 20:15

Locked up, abused, assaulted and starved. These are the heart wrenching details shared by three women seeking help from families in Kerala. The women who were trafficked to Kuwait under false pretences had managed to send audio clips over WhatsApp, detailing their plight and seeking rescue from the situation. A series of similar short audio clips accessed by TNM, show that the women were subjected to physical assault and emotional abuse.

“They give me one kuboos (pita bread) a day and beat me with a slipper. When I protested, the agent took me back, he asked me to enter the elevator and then held me there as the doors closed, squeezing me in between,” a woman says in an audio note. Other audio clips that a couple of women from Kerala locked up in a room in Kuwait sent to their families in March 2022, shows the extent of their distress. One of the women is heard asking to open the door indicating that they are locked inside a room. In the same audio, a man is also heard asking, ‘you want to go to the police?’

According to the complaints filed by the families of two women, they had gone abroad through a company named ‘Golden Via’ located in Ernakulam. They had seen posters advertising for jobs of home nurses and babysitters, with a salary package of Rs 60,000, and no expenses from their part. “I was taken to the Kuwait airport, where I was picked up by an agent named Gassali who then handed me over to an Arab. He told me I was not a babysitter but a house maid,” a woman says in the audio clip and adds that she was subjected to severe physical and mental trauma at the hands of the employer. MK Gassali is alleged to be the kingpin of the trafficking ring.

Hired for babysitting, but forced to work around the clock

In another audio, a woman details her ordeal. “I was taken to a house for two weeks saying that I should take care of the children. But when I came here, I was made to do all the work. Cooking, washing clothes, watching children. There is no food, and they give us only one kuboos at night. Today morning, I was beaten with slippers and pushed into the bathroom and told to clean it,” Yet another spine chilling audio reveals the details of physical assault faced by a woman, following which she attempted suicide.

“Right now, we are locked up inside the room of agents. They are saying they won't give us food. But later they will bring food when they have time and toss it as if for dogs, and we eat that. There are five of us in one room,” the woman says. Of the five, three were rescued and brought back to Kerala in March 2022, the plight of the other two remain unknown.

Advocate Nishin George, who is representing Usha (name changed), a woman who was trafficked, explains the ordeal faced by the women. “They were lured under the pretext of domestic jobs, home nurses and babysitters. The catch here is that the agency working in Kerala does not ask for a penny from the persons who approach them, in an attempt to foster trust. These women are then taken to Kuwait and sold to Arabs for money. So there is an agent in Kerala here, who advertises and lures the women. He hands them over to Kuwaiti agents via the UAE. The Kuwaiti agents sell the women to Arabs,” Nishin explains.

He further explains the torture faced by the women from their Arab employers. “They beat the women, don’t give them food, beat them with slippers and demand they work for several hours a day. The women were given one kuboos, that too only at night, as food. One woman was sick, she was bleeding through her nose, and even then she was not taken to hospital. When the women wanted to return and detailed the ordeal to their family, the agent in Kuwait demanded a ransom of Rs 3 to 3.5 lakh from the families, and threatened that if they refused to give the ransom, the women would be sold to ISIS,” he says.

Watch the trafficking victims describe their ordeal

Help arrived from Kerala Muslims in Kuwait

Usha, who fortunately had a phone with her, passed the details to her husband, who then sought the help of his friends. It finally reached the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) and Oruma, an NGO in Kuwait. Speaking to TNM, Sharafudheen Chittaripilakkil, secretary of Kunnamangalam zone of KMCC, says that they did not visit the women in their places and rescue them, as it is problematic for them to enter a woman’s flat. “I called the Kuwait agent and told him that all we wanted was the release of three women in two days. Knowing that we have been working on trafficking and slavery in Kuwait for nearly 15 years, he decided to release them. However, he said they will only be sent to three different airports in Kerala. We also gave the women some money for their expenses on their way back home,” he says.

Sharafudheen observes an increase in the number of such distress calls received by him. He speculates that more people might have known his number, aiding them to reach out for his help. He also says that for instances where passports of the persons are withheld by the employers and agents and in such situations they work with the embassy. “There is a KMCC desk in the Indian embassy here. For those women whose passports are withheld, the embassy arranges an out pass and sends them back,” he said.

More women still trapped in Kuwait 

The KMCC members are currently working on rescuing another woman from Kerala, who has been trafficked by the same agent Gassali. Advocate Nishin also mentions that another Hindi-speaking woman was also trapped along with the Keralites. “However, we don’t know what happened to her. Only because of the intervention of KMCC, were we able to safely bring them back here. We also don’t know how many women are in need of help or anything because we have not received any distress calls,” he says.

Meanwhile, based on the complaint filed by Ann, the Ernakulam Town South police have registered a case against Aju (38) – agent in Kerala and Majeed (42) - Keralite agent in Kuwait. They are booked under sections 34, 406, 420 and 506 of The Indian Penal Code. However, MK Gassali, the alleged kingpin, has not yet been booked, Nishin said. The police have launched a comprehensive probe into the issue and an investigation is underway.

“We came to know about these women because we got their details somehow. And we were able to contact them back. In case we receive any other calls, we will definitely do whatever is in our capacity,” Sharafudheen says. According to him, some Kuwaiti households allow usage of mobile phones after their working hours and some people allow them even while working. Since it depends on the household, he agrees it is a distinct possibility that there are women who are trapped in dire situations without any means of communication. 

Watch the trafficking victims describe their ordeal


Also Read: How two Kerala women were lured into slavery in Kuwait in the name of a govt scheme

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