Jinxed as yet
She lost her mother at birth. She left her deceitful husband four months after marriage. Even so, she thought a better life was possible. So she rested her hope on an overseas job.
As Sharmin Akter, 25, established contact with Nipa, an agent for Bangladeshi female migrant workers in Lebanon, she barely knew what lay in wait for her would put the final nail in her coffin.
She had flown to Lebanon in April this year. Two weeks after she started a job as a domestic help, Nipa talked her into leaving her employer for a more lucrative job.
It was only when she was taken to 20 other Bangladeshi girls that she realised she was being forced into prostitution by her Bangladeshi agent.
“I never wanted to get into that kind of profession. So I rejected their proposal and they beat me up and made me starve for two days,” she told The Daily Star yesterday. Tears rolled down her cheeks while she narrated her ordeals over the last six months at a hospital in Lebanon.
“After five days of my confinement in a room with other girls, I could escape with the help of a Lebanese man,” said the ill-fated girl who is now receiving treatment in the capital's National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation.
Although she fled the premises she was kept in, she seriously injured one of her legs in an accident. Later she was rescued by the Lebanese army and admitted to Dr Monzer Al Hajj Hospital in Lebanon where she was treated for six months.
She returned to Bangladesh on a flight of Air Arabia on Wednesday night. However, it was not easy to find her way back home.
“Doctors in Lebanon conducted two surgeries on my leg. They took very good care of me,” Sharmin said.
After two months at the hospital, she could contact her sister in Bangladesh. Her brother-in-law then contacted the Wage Earners Welfare Board (WEWB) to bring Sharmin back home. The WEWB works under the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).
“We contacted the hospital authorities through our mission in Lebanon. They informed us that the total costs for her treatment amounted to around Tk 20 lakh,” said Ziauddin, director (admin) of WEWB.
Sharmin's family and the WEWB officials then sought assistance from different sources to bring Sharmin back.
Finally, she returned with the help of a Bangladeshi named Ameen who has been living in Lebanon for over 20 years now, informed Sharmin.
Seriously disillusioned about foreign jobs, Sharmin now wants no Bangladeshi girls to go abroad with the help of agents like Nipa. She also dreams of walking normally again.
Razia Sultana, eldest sister of Sharmin, appealed to the government and the kindhearted section of the society for standing beside her hapless sister.
Matiur Rahman, deputy managing director of WEWB, said they would take action against the alleged Bangladeshi agent after conducting an investigation.
“We will see what we can do for her [Sharmin],” he told The Daily Star yesterday night.
Prof Tasneem Siddiqui, founder chair of Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit, said the government must ensure all-out support for the victim.
“The government must set up shelter for such victims in all destination countries. If anyone is victimised by such an incident, she can take shelter there,” she added.
Breaking all previous records in the outflow of female migrant workers, the country has sent more than 60,000 female workers abroad in the last 11 months, according to BMET statistics.