The nightmare began as soon as they landed at Dammam airport in August 2015.
Noorjahan, 38, a resident of Shahpur, and her husband, Harshad, collected Rs 2.5 lakh to go to Saudi Arabia and live their Gulf. They sold their auto-rickshaw and the air-conditioner Noorjahan used at her beauty parlour, to collect the money.
Their dream ended in nightmare when Noorjahan learnt in Saudi Arabia that her job included having sex (‘home service’) with the master. Later, her husband was forced to borrow Rs 2.5 lakh in Saudi Riyals to secure her release from jail. Fourteen months after their arrival, he put her on a plane back to India but had to stay back himself to repay the loan he had taken.
Noorjahan recalls the day when she and her husband approached Nisar, a Mumbai-based immigration agent. The couple were promised jobs as beautician and driver respectively for a salary of Saudi Riyal 2500 (approximately Rs 44,700) each.
The nightmare began as soon as they landed at Dammam airport in August 2015. Here an agent took her husband to work in Riyadh while she was asked to work in Dammam.
“It came as a shock as we were promised that we will stay together. I was sent to Zara, a local ‘madam’ running a beauty parlour. When my iqama (work permit) arrived after three months, it held another shocker — I was listed as a maid!” said Noorjahan.
She was told by Indian and Filipino women staying with her that the ‘home service’ she was supposed to do included sexual favours. It was only her marital status and repeated excuses of ill health that kept her from being sexually exploited.
“In March 2016, a girl from Hyderabad tried to cut her wrist to kill herself after repeated atrocities,” recalled Noorjahan. “Humiliation was part of the job as we were treated like animals. I was beaten or dragged by hair for making even a small protest.”
She said she still has bruise marks on her forehead and elbow as sovenirs of those days.
The women kept a three-month roza in jail praying fervently to be united with their respective families.
“The jail term led to some good as my husband was informed about the case and he agreed to pay Riyal 14, 000 (approximately Rs 2.5 lakh) to free me of the contract,” she said.
‘City police didn’t pay heed but Mumbai cops nabbed agent’
The family had a bitter experience with Ahmedabad police. “We gave applications to the offices of the DCP and CP, requesting them to look into a clear case of human trafficking and urged them to bring our sister back,” Noorjahan’s brother said. “But we never heard from them.”
But the application to Mumbai police did fetch results. “Agripada police station arrested Nisar and Najma from their residence and also found around 150 passports, most of which belonged to women trying to go to the Gulf,” he said.
Noorjahan is not sure about the future. “My husband is still there, repaying the sum he borrowed to get me released. We don’t have anything now but I might work at a beauty parlour. I just want to tell other women not to be blinded by dreams of going abroad,” she said.