Category Archives: Bangladesh

Bangladeshi women recount stories of abuse in Saudi Arabia

94551B09-5E65-4CDB-88F7-8CB32E9D716DAccording to Bangladeshi authorities, nearly 50,000 female workers went to Saudi Arabia until the end of September this year [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Shirina Begum was no stranger to sleeping on an empty stomach. For days on end, she had to consume “bhater mar” (the starchy water poured off cooked rice) to quell her hunger after feeding her two children and ailing husband.

Growing up in the small Bangladeshi village of Namorikari in Lalmonirhat, which often faces seasonal famines, 29-year-old Begum struggled to make ends meet.

With no cultivable land at her disposal and living in a house made of straw, she seemed destined to live her life on subsistence.

Then one day, she heard that one of her neighbours was going to Saudi Arabiato work as a housemaid.

“I was told that she would make around 20,000 taka ($235) a month and only needed to spend 40,000 taka ($471) to go to Saudi Arabia,” she told Al Jazeera.

“I decided to borrow money from a local moneylender and go to Saudi Arabia to work there,” she said.

In May this year, she started her journey, leaving behind her family. Her agent told her that she would only need to cook for a family of four in the city of Al-Kharj.

She later found out that the family had six members and her duties also included cleaning, washing and other household chores.

“It was a tough job for $235 a month. I needed to work for 14-15 hours straight. It was hard for me to understand their language [Arabic]. I also couldn’t cook to their taste. I didn’t have any access to a phone, so I couldn’t talk to my family back home,” she said.

“They also beat me with a stick sometimes.”

Begum said she was also sexually assaulted by the eldest son of the family, which spurred her to run away.

“I was sleeping in the kitchen. Suddenly I realised someone was trying to get on the top of me. I screamed loud but he shut my mouth with his hand. Then he molested me. At one point, I applied all my force and he was compelled to leave me,” she said.

The next day, she mustered the courage and fled to the nearest police station. As she did not have proper immigration papers, she spent nearly four weeks in prison until she was able to return to Bangladesh with 20 others in late October with the help of Bangladeshi embassy in Saudi Arabia.

“I was treated like an animal inside the prison,” she said.

“I was able to work for only four months and I got salary of just two months. Now I am in debt as I can’t pay back to my loan sharks.”

Begum is among the nearly 50,000 women who went to the Gulf country for work until the end of September this year.

According to government figures, more than 300,000 female workers have travelled to Saudi Arabia since 1991, but many of them return with stories of abuse and exploitation.

In the last four years, at least 66 Bangladeshi female workers died in Saudi Arabia, 52 of them committing suicide.

Attempted suicide

The story of Dalia Akhter, another migrant who worked in Saudi Arabia, ended with a broken limb.

Akhter, a resident of Gendaria outside the capital Dhaka, was told she would be taking care of an elderly woman in the town Ad-Dilum in Saudi Arabia in exchange for $266 a month.

However, she woke up to the harsh reality when she reached there in July 2018. Long working hours, rude behaviour and physical abuse were everyday experiences.

“I had to work from 5am to 10pm every day without a break,” she said.

“The Malkin (her female employer) used to beat me with a stick when I could not understand her instructions. I felt helpless and trapped,” she said.

After she refused to continue working for the family, she was “sold” to another family, Akter says. Under the Saudi “kafala” – or visa sponsorship – system, a migrant worker’s residency permit is tied to the “sponsoring” employers whose written consent is required for the worker to change employers or leave the country under normal circumstances.

Akter’s working conditions got worse. The new family was even harsher on her than the previous one, she says. She jumped from the roof of the three-storey house in an attempted suicide and broke her leg, after which her employer left her with the Bangladeshi embassy in the capital, Riyadh.

After living in a safe house in Riyadh run by the Bangladeshi embassy for three weeks, Akhter was sent back to Bangladesh this September, her leg permanently incapable of healing.

“Before going to Saudi Arabia, I used to work in garment sector. Now with a broken leg, I have become a burden to my family,” said Akhter.

Bangladesh’s garment sector, the South Asian nation’s biggest export earner, employs millions of women.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/bangladeshi-women-recount-stories-abuse-saudi-arabia-191107111307106.html

Nusrat Jahan Rafi: 16 charged in Bangladesh for burning girl alive

MurderNusrat was doused with kerosene and set on fire on a rooftop

Sixteen people have been charged in Bangladesh over the shocking murder of a teenager who was burned to death after reporting sexual harassment.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, was doused with kerosene and set on fire on the roof of her Islamic school on 6 April, days after filing a complaint.

Headmaster Siraj Ud Doula, targeted in the complaint, is among those charged.

Police say he ordered her murder from prison when she refused to withdraw her accusations against him.

They described the preparations for the killing as being like a “military plan”.

The case sparked mass protests in Bangladesh and shone a spotlight on the vulnerability of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the country.

Ms Rafi filed a police complaint against Mr Doula in late March and he was arrested. On 6 April she attended the school to sit her final exams when she was allegedly lured to the roof of the school and set alight by a group of people wearing burkas, a one-piece veil that covers the face and body.

They had planned to make it look like a suicide, police said, but Ms Rafi – who suffered burns to 80% of her body – was able to give a statement before she died on 10 April.

Police in Feni, a small town some 160km (100 miles) outside the capital Dhaka, formally laid murder charges on Wednesday against the 16 accused. They include students at the madrassa and two local politicians from the governing Awami League party who were in prominent positions at the school.

Investigators are calling for the death penalty for all of the suspects. Police say that the principal has confessed in court that he ordered the murder.

They say that in total 12 of the accused have given statements of confession. The two local politicians have not admitted any involvement.

In the wake of Ms Rafi’s death, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged that every person involved in the killing would be brought to justice.

“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said.

What happened to Nusrat?

On 27 March, the 19-year-old accused the headmaster of the madrassa she attended of calling her into his office and repeatedly touching her in an inappropriate manner. She ran out before things could go any further.

She and her family went to the police on the same day and she gave a statement. At the police station, she was filmed by the officer in charge as she described the ordeal.

In the video she is visibly distressed and tries to hide her face with her hands. The policeman is heard calling the complaint “no big deal” and telling her to move her hands from her face. He has now been charged with illegally recording her statement and sharing it online.

The madrassa’s headmaster was arrested after Ms Rafi filed her complaint, triggering street protests locally demanding his release.

According to Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) chief Banaj Kumar Majumder, Mr Doula was visited in jail by associates whom he instructed to intimidate Nusrat’s family to withdraw the complaint.

When this failed, the principal is alleged to have ordered her to be killed if necessary. At a news conference on Tuesday, the PBI chief described careful planning – including the purchase of kerosene, burkas and gloves. The accused are alleged to have divided roles among themselves on 6 April, the day of the murder.

Some guarded the gates of the madrassa to make sure only students entered, while others kept watch in front of the specific building where Nusrat was to be attacked, Mr Majumder said.

According to a statement given by Nusrat, she was lured to the roof of that building by a fellow female student. She was allegedly told that one of her friends was being beaten up.

There, Mr Majumder said, she was pressured to withdraw the case and asked to sign a blank piece of paper. When she refused she was gagged and bound before being doused with kerosene and burned, he said.

In the ambulance, fearing she might not survive, she recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile phone and identified some of her attackers as students at the madrassa.

“The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath,” she can be heard saying in the video.

A trial date is yet to be set.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48441604

Bangladesh blocks 20,000 websites in anti-porn ‘war’

Pornography photoPopular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo have also been blocked [File: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

Bangladeshi authorities have blocked almost 20,000 websites as part of an anti-pornography “war”, a minister said on Tuesday.

Internet providers in the conservative Muslim-majority nation took down pornography and gambling websites in the past week under orders from the telecommunications regulator.

“I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous war,” Mustafa Jabbar, the posts and telecommunications minister, told the AFP news agency.

Popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo – which authorities believe are misused – have also been blocked in the South Asian nation, Jabbar said.

Most of the blocked sites are foreign, but a few local websites and social media platforms have also faced action under the crackdown, he added.

The crackdown was launched after Bangladesh’s High Court in November asked the government to block pornography websites and publication of obscene materials in electronic forms for six months.

The court acted after a civil society organisation filed a petition stating that a large number of adult websites contain uncensored and obscene content.

Regular monitoring
On Sunday, police reprimanded a rising actress and told her to remove provocative images from her Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages.

“We are monitoring the local Facebook profiles, YouTube channels and websites, also,” Jabbar said.

“A few of them were taken down for having obscene content. We advised a few others not to post anything that goes against our social norms.”

Bangladesh, a country of 165 million people, has more than 90 million internet users. Porn stars regularly top the list of the most searched names.

Emdadul Hoque, general secretary of the internet service providers association, said they have complied with the order, but many users can still access online porn by using virtual private networks or mirror websites.

“This is a continuous process and it needs regular monitoring. These websites are very well aware of the regulations and they come up with thousands of mirror sites every week,” Hoque told AFP.

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/bangladesh-blocks-20000-websites-anti-porn-war-190219155030486.html