Abandoned by her husband and struggling to feed her two children, Nazma Begum thought moving overseas for work would change her life.
It did, indeed, but not the way she thought it would.
The 32-year-old from a remote village in Moheshpur of Jhenaidah was lured by one of her villagers with the promise of a house-keeping job in a Middle-Eastern country.
But she ended up in the sordid world of sex trafficking in Jordan.
During her 10-month stay in the Arab country, Nazma endured torture, captivity and abuse. Instead of returning with money that could change their fate, she came back on September 10 empty-handed with physical injuries and shocking tales of abuse.
"Never did it occur to me that such a nightmare was awaiting me. I went there to earn for my family, but I was sold instead," Nazma told The Daily Star over the phone recently.
"I am in severe distress. I have no money for my treatment and food for my children. I don't know what would I do?"
With almost no formal education and any idea of the outside world, Nazma made up her mind to go to a distant land after Milon Mondol, an inhabitant of the village and relative of a broker, promised her the job in Jordan.
"Milon told me that my financial hardship would end if I could go abroad," she recalled.
The monthly salary that she was promised was 250 Jordanian Dinar, equivalent to around Tk 30,000. But she did not know the details like the recruiting agency and employer. She knows only a few names and some phone numbers.
Milon sent Nazma to Alam, one of his relatives in Faridpur Sadar. Alam and his brother Jahangir are brokers and send financially vulnerable women abroad, promising jobs.
Nazma stayed at Alam's house in Baharmor at Koijhuri union for two months where she was treated well.
She alleged she paid Alam and Jahangir Tk 50,000 she borrowed from relatives and locals for "arranging the trip", while the duo gave Milon Tk 5,000.
During the two months, the two brokers arranged Nazma's passport, visa and other documents, she added.
Then came the day.
On December 12 last year, she said, Alam sent her to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. There, a man with black-beard handed her the passport and all other documents.
Nazma flew to Amman, the capital of Jordan.
Reaching Amman, she felt something was very wrong. Soon, she came to know that she was trapped and fell victim to an international human trafficking gang.
Soon after her arrival, a Jordanian citizen named Ashraf took her from the airport to an apartment where she was kept captive, she alleged.
"Ashraf later sold me out on a two-year contract to another local citizen named Mohammad."
In Mohammad's two-storey house, she found some 20 to 30 other young women already held captive.
Eight to nine of them were Bangladeshis while the rest from different other countries like the Philippines and Ethiopia, she added.
Mohammad used to send some of those women in his five microbuses to different hotels and houses on calls for the job of sex worker. Some were sent to different houses for domestic work, she alleged.
As she refused to serve the clients, Mohammad beat her up mercilessly and took away her mobile phone and smashed it up so that she couldn't contact her relatives in Bangladesh, she alleged.
"They tried to abuse me like others, but I refused and somehow saved myself. I told them I would rather die than doing the acts."
Enraged, they locked her in a room and tortured her severely. "Because of the torture, blood oozes out from my nose sometimes," she said.
Yet, she considers herself somewhat lucky as she was later engaged in household work. She was given the task of housekeeping at Mohammad's place, but she was forced to work from 10:00am and till late night, she claimed.
Despite working hard, she did not get a single penny.
"I gave Tk 50,000 to Alam for going abroad, but what I got there was torture," she said.
Contacted, Alam claimed he did not charge Nazma anything for sending her to Jordan as she became like a relative.
The allegation of torture and abuse is not true either, he said.
"I talked to Nazma several times after her return, but she never told me anything like that," he said.
But Nazma said he did not even speak to her once after her return.
Alam said, "I have been sending women overseas for the last several years through JSK Recruiting Agency in the capital's Fakirapool, but none ever bring allegations of torture and abuse at their workplace."
As torture became severe, a Philippine woman at the apartment secretly filmed Nazma being tortured and sent the clips to her sister in Jhenaidah using a video calling and messaging app.
Nazma's relatives then sought help from rights body Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) through Human Rights Defender Forum in Jhenidah.
ASK wrote to the foreign ministry and to the Ambassador to Jordan Nahida Sobhan. The embassy quickly intervened and rescued Nazma.
Contacted, Nahida Sobhan said Nazma did not bring any complaint against anyone though she was assured that her name would not be disclosed anywhere and she can disclose everything without any fear.
"If we get information about captivity of any other Bangladeshi woman, we will intervene quickly as the government is serious about it," the ambassador told this correspondent over phone when her attention was drawn to other Bangladeshi women in captivity.
Nazma said the embassy contacted Mohammad and asked him to take her to the embassy which he complied. But she was threatened with dire consequences if she disclosed anything to the embassy officials.
Nina Goswami, senior deputy director of ASK, said all the allegations Nazma brought up are true. They will file a case in connection with the incident soon.
In this process, one Zahidul, an owner of a Paltan-based recruiting agency in Dhaka, has been found to have played a key role in sending her to Jordan.
Contacted, Zahidul claimed they changed Nazma's workplace four to five times, but she was unwilling to work.
He, however, declined to disclose any information relating to his recruiting agency. "You better talk to the broker," he said.
SAME OLD SAD STORY
An estimated 75,000 women and 25,000 male Bangladeshis work in Jordan, according to government sources.
Nazma's is a prime example of unsafe migration and her tale reflects that of hundreds of abused women returning to Bangladesh from the host countries in the Middle East in recent times.
Industry insiders say the number of abused women workers in the Middle East is growing as more women go abroad for domestic work. However, the Bangladesh government does not have any data on how many women are returning home after facing abuse.
One of the reasons is the system depends largely on unlicensed brokers working in rural areas and opens the door to trafficking and cheating.
A special report of Brac Migration programme says that in recent years, women domestic helps returned from different Middle East countries facing various problems and falling victim to fraudulence and torture.
Citing media reports, it says 13,000 women returned home from Saudi Arabia in the last four years. According to Brac Migration programme from January 2018 to October last year, 2,315 women house helps came back from Saudi Arabia alone.
Most of the returnees alleged they were tortured physically, mentally and sexually, given insufficient foods, denied salary as per agreement or forced to work beyond the agreed time.
But they have little redress for the crimes they have suffered.