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Female Ansar Members Returning home from Saudi Arabia with tales of horror

Sunday September 11 2005 12:42:38 PM BDT

Jahangir Alam from Netrakona and Porimol Palma in Dhaka

Five Ansar-Village Defence Party (VDP) women members, who went to Saudi Arabia late July this year to work as housemaids, returned home within a few days of joining the workplaces where they allegedly became victims of sexual harassment by employers.( The Daily Star )

Upon their return, the victims filed complaints to the Ansar-VDP office in this regard, but they are yet to receive any response.

Some 150 Ansar-VDP women went to Saudi Arabia to work as housemaids after receiving a one-month training at Shafipur Ansar Academy.

The women, who were given assurance of 400 rials as monthly salary, had to pay Tk 35,000 each to recruiting agencies for arranging their travel to Saudi Arabia.

While officials of Ansar-VDP, Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) and recruiting agency officials said that the women returned mainly because they could not adjust with the environment and felt homesick, the accounts of the returnees show a different picture.

When Sultana Akter, 19, daughter of Mukteruddin of Netrakona, arrived in Ma-Hawa-Maktab, a Saudi Arabia branch office of Akbar Enterprise, a recruiting agency based in Dhaka, she was taken to the house of an Arab named Ahammad on July 27.

As soon as she reached the house, her mistress ordered her to wash clothes.

When Sultana said she was very tired and hungry after the long travel, the callous mistress started beating her.

Sultana had to wash clothes and then go to bed in an empty stomach, as she was not given any food, she told The Daily Star.

Minutes after Sultana's going to bed, her employer locked the room's door from outside.

At midnight Ahammad entered the room and attempted to rape her, Sultana said, adding,

"Despite my strong resistance, he almost unclothed me, but I cried and managed to leave the room and took shelter at the room of the mistress," she said.

The employer then beat her with a stick and took her to Ma-Hawa-Maktab the next morning.

There she found Ansar-VDP members Farhana, 18, of Habiganj and Lipi, 19, of Tangail, who were brought there to be sent back home as they did not agree to their employers' proposal for having physical relationship, Sultana said.

Confining them for four days, employees of Ma-Hawa-Maktab tortured them for "wanting to come back without completing their 3-year period".

The employees kept the Ansar-VDP members' signatures on pieces of white paper and sent them to Dhaka by Bangladesh Biman on August 3.

"I am an unmarried girl, and my father is a poor man. I want stern action and compensation," said Sultana, who recently met State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar and appealed for looking into the matter.

Sultana's colleague Selina Sultana Ranu of Khulna also returned home on August 27.

Selina, who was in service only for three days, told The Daily Star that her employer Rashed in Riyadh wanted to use her as a prostitute.

"As I refused, my master beat me brutally and sent me to jail with the help of the recruiting agency (that sent her to the KSA)," she said, adding that the agency sent her to Bangladesh after one month.

Meanwhile, Ansar-VDP member Rani Akter of Thakurgaon, who went to Saudi Arabia, recently wrote to her mother that she, along with many other Ansar-VDP members, is spending a tough time in Saudi Arabia.

There are allegations that the employers do not give them adequate food, do not pay them, and even torture them physically when they ask for it.

Although Ansar-VDP Deputy Director Golam Kibria said he forwarded the complaints to Akbar Enterprise, the recruiting agency's Managing Director Akbar Hossain Monju denied their having any branch office named Ma-Hawa-Maktab in Riyadh, and said he is not aware of any such complaints.

Meanwhile, Golam Kibria said there is now very little possibility of proving the allegations as the returnees did not immediately inform about their sexual harassment to the Saudi authorities.

Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia is investigating the matter and measures will be taken in light of the agreements between the recruiting agencies and the employers if the allegations are proved, he added.

The Ansar-VDP department has not informed anything about the issue, State Minister for Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Major (retd) Quamrul Islam said, adding that he will look into the matter as soon as his ministry gets official information about it.


The Daily Star

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