Kabirun Nahar sat on a luggage trolley as she got out of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka yesterday. She had nothing with her bearing signs of her life overseas.
However, her right leg was bandaged from above the ankle to her toes, the doing of her Saudi employer.
“I don’t know how will I take care of my family now,” she said as she broke down in tears. Her husband has been bedridden after a heart attack.
Seventeen more women migrant workers returned with the 38-year-old in the same flight from the Middle Eastern country.
They had a few things in common: they were tortured by employers forcing them to run away; they were rescued by Saudi police from the streets; they had to stay in a safe home for months before the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh made arrangements for their return home.
Kabirun’s husband was once a farmer. “He cannot even speak now,” she said, adding that she was the only earner in her family of four; an 11-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter.
She thought working as a house help in Saudi Arabia for around Tk 20,000 a month would help her get rid of hardship.
Hoping to be able to meet the needs of the family in Moulvibazar “I flew to Saudi Arabia exactly seven months and 13 days ago,” she said.
But months went by without her employer paying her a single penny.
When she eventually asked for the money so that she could send it home, her employer was “enraged by her audacity”, Kabirun said.
Her employer pushed her off the second floor stair case and Kabirun pulled up her hijab to show this correspondent the cuts she got in the fall in her forehead. She also showed a six-inch-long stitched wound on her left knee.
Later, Saudi police rescued her from the street and took her to a hospital. After more than a month of treatment, she was taken to a safe home where she stayed for about two months.
Kabirun came back with nothing but a failing health and she is by no means the first one.
In August, 110 female migrant domestic workers returned from a safe home in Riyadh. The Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh arranged their repatriation.
So far this year, at least 850 female migrants have returned from the Middle Eastern country after being tortured, according to the Brac Migration Programme.
Another 87 were brought dead.
According to documents, they either died by suicide or had suffered strokes. The families of the deceased and rights organisations have rejected the claims but they have no scope for proving any wrongdoing.
Between 2016 and June this year, bodies of 311 women migrants came from the Middle East, mostly from Saudi Arabia, according to Brac’s data.
In August, Golam Moshi, Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said, “The problem is Bangladeshi workers can’t cope with the new environment while the house owners are not happy with their services.”
Language is another barrier. “They [women workers] must be sent after proper training and orientation. The agencies are cheating innocent women, and proper steps should be taken against them. We have written to the foreign ministry and the expatriate welfare ministry several times in this regard,” he said.
Josna, 44, came back yesterday eight months after she had flown to Saudi Arabia. She also did not get any pay from her employer.
She had left her three-year-old child with her farmer husband to bring solvency to the family.
Like the other women, apart from Kabirun, who returned yesterday, she refused to talk to journalists or have her picture taken.