‘Sexual assaults’: Bangladesh seeks worker’s return from Saudi

In a Facebook video, migrant worker Sumi Akter alleged ‘merciless sexual assaults’ by her Saudi employers.

A total of 2,165 women workers have returned over the past 21 months after surviving in inhumane condition and another 87 female workers were brought dead [Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

Bangladesh government has called for a migrant worker’s repatriation from Saudi Arabia after her video alleging sexual abuse highlighted the exploitation faced by Asians working abroad.

In a Facebook video which has been shared thousands of times and prompted protests in Dhaka against workers’ conditions, Sumi Akter alleged “merciless sexual assaults” by her Saudi employers.

“I perhaps won’t live longer. Please save me. They locked me up for 15 days and barely gave me any food. They burned my hands with hot oil,” the 25-year-old said.

On Sunday, the government called on the state-run manpower exporting agency to bring Akter back home “as soon as possible”.

Her husband Sirajul Islam told AFP news agency he had been “trying to get her back but couldn’t”.

Since 1991, some 300,000 Bangladeshi women have travelled to the Gulf nation for work, according to the ministry of expatriates’ welfare.

Those workers account for the largest amount of remittance sent back to Bangladesh.

Government spokesman Atiqur Rahman said Dhaka would crack down on rogue recruitment firms amid allegations that they abused female workers and sold them to other brokers.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen had said on Thursday the government would not ban women from going to Saudi Arabia for work.

“Saudi Arabia admitted some people are being victimised. But that is happening for a few handfuls of people. The Saudi government isn’t making them victims,” he told reporters.

Akter’s video comes after the body of migrant worker Nazma Begum was repatriated in late October.


The 42-year-old Begum had called her son Rajib Hossain repeatedly before her death, alleging torture and asking to be rescued, Hossain told AFP, adding that she died of an untreated illness.

Both women said they were promised hospital janitor jobs but were tricked into being household maids.

Millions of Asians travel to the Gulf to work, according to Bangladesh’s government, and human rights groups say many suffer exploitation and abuses with no channels for redress.

Last month, Bangladeshi migrant rights group Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program said 61 percent of 110 women they interviewed who returned home, many from Saudi Arabia, claimed they were physically abused.

Some 14 percent said they were sexually abused, the group added.

Dhaka-based BRAC, one of the world’s largest charities, said this year alone, the bodies of 48 female workers were brought back from Saudi Arabia.

Source: AFP