At least 33 Bangladeshis are suffering in inhuman conditions in an under-construction hospital building in the restive Tikrit city of Iraq for the last eight days amid shortage of food, water and electricity.
“We've been in this building since June 11. We can't go outside from here,” said Sheikh Sahaur Rahman Belal.
“Please save our lives and arrange our repatriation at any cost. Otherwise, we may die here any time,” he pleaded with The Daily Star over the phone yesterday.
The Bangladeshis -- 10 from Habiganj, nine from Brahmanbaria, six from Jamalpur, four from Faridpur and four from Madaripur -- were employed in Al-Iskan Construction since March last year.
Although the expatriates are eager to move to a safer place, they cannot proceed as the Iraqi firm took away passports from all of them.
“Our company owner fled the city as it fell to insurgents recently. Another Iraqi, who had been our supervisor at the company, asked us not to leave the place. We just don't know what lies ahead of us,” said a worried Belal.
Since the beginning of this month, Sunni insurgents took control of Tikrit, Mosul and some other provinces in the Middle Eastern country.
The troubled Bangladeshis said almost all Iraqis left the area as the rebels are dominating in Tikrit, some 160-km away from the capital Baghdad.
Another expatriate Kawsar Molla said there is no sign of improvement in law and order in the city. “We're very much worried about our safety and don't know when we'll be able to shift to a safer place,” he added.
Talking to our Moulvibazar correspondent yesterday, Belal's father Mukhlesur Rahman sought the government's assistance in rescuing his son.
“I don't know if my son would return home alive or not. I urge the government to save my son with all other Bangladeshis there,” he mentioned.
On Wednesday, Belal narrated his ordeals to his family members over the phone and asked them to do something to save his life.
Meanwhile, Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain yesterday said the government, if required, would arrange repatriation of all Bangladeshis from Iraq.
He was talking to reporters at the ministry after holding a meeting with the new executive committee of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies.
The foreign ministry in a press release yesterday said it is in regular communication with the Bangladesh embassy in Baghdad as well as with the neighbouring Bangladeshi missions in Iran, Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey to ensure safety and security of Bangladesh nationals in Iraq.
The government, added the release, will take all necessary measures for the well-being of Bangladesh nationals there.
AFP adds: Militants who have overrun a swathe of territory north of Baghdad in a lightning offensive released on Thursday 48 foreigners, including four Turks, held for several days, Iraqi police said.
The construction workers, who were helping build a hospital in the now insurgent-held city of Tikrit, are from Turkey, Nepal, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
“The workers... were kidnapped near the Hamreen mountains four days ago, and were handed over near a checkpoint between Tikrit and Kirkuk," said Maj Gen Torhan Abdulrahman, the deputy police chief for Kirkuk province.
"We brought them to Kirkuk, and they will return to their countries soon."