Indian Woman Sold, Tortured After Entering Saudi Arabia on Housemaid Visa

A veiled woman shops at al-Zall souk in downtown Riyadh November 16, 2007. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji
REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

A woman from India was sold to her immigration sponsor for an estimated $4,700 after she entered Saudi Arabia on a housemaid visa and is being tortured by her captor, her daughter tells the Times of India (TOI).

“My mother is in trouble in Saudi. She wants to return home, but her Kafeel [visa sponsor] is not allowing her to get back here,” Sameena Begum, the victim’s daughter, told TOI.

Her daughter revealed that the victim “is facing mental and physical harassment at the hands of her kafeel (sponsor) in Saudi Arabia,” points the Indian news outlet.

“The torture started when she denied to a contract marriage with her Kafeel in Saudi Arabia. She, however, informed me sending a message that she was sold by agents. So the Kafeel does not want to send her back,” added the daughter, noting that her mother told her she was sold for 3 lakh, or 300,000 rupees (about $4,700).

Sameena’s mother has been identified as Salma Begum, 39, a resident of Babanagar, a suburb of Hyderabad in India’s Telangana state.

“I am trying all efforts to bring my mother back home. I kindly request Telangana and central governments to bring my mother back to India,” implored Sameena, noting that her Salma is asking New Delhi to intervene on her behalf.

In January, Salma was reportedly taken to Saudi Arabia on a housemaid visa by two local Indian agents identified only as Akram and Shafi.

“I even met Akram requesting him to get my mother back, but he did nothing so far. We went to [the local] Kanchanbagh police station, but the police appear to be unmoved by the matter and have not taken any action so far,’’ noted the daughter.

Although Indian authorities are aware of Akram and Shafi’s involvement, they have failed to take action against them.

Salma traveled to Saudi Arabia in search of greater financial security

Salma is reportedly the second woman to be deceived into going into the Sunni Saudi kingdom ruled by strict Islamic rules where authorities are known to broadly infringe women’s rights.

“The GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries -Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE – manage its ‘temporary’ migrant workforce through the sponsorship or Kafala system,” explains TOI. “Under this system, a local citizen or local company (the kafeel) must sponsor foreign workers in order for their work visas and residency to be valid.”

“This means that an individual’s right to work and legal presence in the host country is dependent on his or her employer, rendering him or her vulnerable to exploitation,” it adds.