This is the harrowing story of one Indian woman who was tricked into slavery in Saudi Arabia.
I was working as an attendant in a private hospital near my home in a crowded town on the edge of Hyderabad, India, when I first heard about job opportunities in Saudi Arabia. My brother’s wedding had been arranged. The man who arranged the match, Majid, told me I could earn four times more if I went to work in Saudi. He said my children – I have four and my husband has left me – could live better lives.
I’d been at the hospital for six years, earning 5,000 rupees (£60) a month. It was very difficult to support my children since my husband didn’t contribute at all. But I was reluctant to travel to Saudi because the thought of going overseas to a strange country scared me.
So Majid introduced me to another man Feroz who, I think, is an agent who recruits people from Hyderabad to work in the Gulf. He was working for someone based in Delhi who has a network for recruiting.
I had got my passport four months ago because my aunt and I were keen on going [for pilgrimage] to Mecca. Feroz used to come to my house and tell told me if I worked as a domestic help in Saudi I could go for Haj as well. He said I was getting the ticket and the visa for free. Even his wife spoke to me and told me there was nothing to fear. She had travelled to Saudi as a tourist and told me I should go to Riyadh.
So I paid him 10,000 rupees (£120) for his services. Then I spent another 10,000 rupees buying clothes and other things for my stay in Riyadh.
On 12 June 2012, I flew to Dubai – Bahrain – Riyadh. I was told to tell the emigration desk at Hyderabad airport I was going to Dubai to visit my aunt. When they asked me too many questions, I called Feroz and handed over the phone. Once he spoke to the official, they let me through. I think he had bribed officials at the airport so they wouldn’t stop people like me from going.
Once I reached Riyadh, I called the employer, Ahmed, but there was no response. They took me to the police station and I was there for four days waiting for my employer to come and pick me up. When Ahmed finally arrived, they gave him my passport.
He took me to a hotel. I got nervous so I locked myself in the room and refused to open the door even when he knocked. There was a trap door through which he would pass the food. After two days, Ahmed’s mother and sister arrived at the lodge and I agreed to open the door. I left with them for Ahmed’s mother’s house. There were six men in that house, all of them Ahmed’s brothers.
They made me sleep in the storeroom. They gave me a blanket that smelled so much that I had to wash it before I could use it. And it was so hot. I opened the windows at night.
They didn’t like the way I cooked, so they threw away the food the first day. After that, I did other work like washing the pots and pans, cleaning and so on.
I was at the house for 15 days when Ahmed started approaching me at night and asking if I liked him and if I would live with him like his wife. I got scared and told him I wanted to go back to India. He said he would take me to the airport but instead he sold me to another man, a sheikh called Gazi.
I was taken to an office where sheikhs were paying for women. There were five other women and three men who were quoting prices. Ahmed sold me for 25,000 rupees (£300).
I was scared that I might get pregnant. If I did, I thought they might kill me. I was locked in a room with three other women during the day. Ghazi poured hot water on my hands and feet, burning them. My phone had been smashed but I managed to piece it back together and called my aunt in Hyderabad to ask for help. I asked [a customer] who let me use his phone.
Finally, it was Ghazi’s wife who helped us. She unlocked the room like she did every morning so we could bathe and have something to eat. But she told us we could leave if we wished. So we went to the police station and the police called Ahmed so he could bring my passport.
I got back to India on 23 July 2012. I filed a criminal complaint with the police against Feroz but they haven’t found him yet. He has left his house. Majid says he didn’t know this would happen. He believed it was a genuine job offer that would help me.”