They said I was bought as a slave: Kerala woman recounts torture in Qatar

Harassed by Arab employers for over a year, Preethi says she was lucky to return home safe

Published: 30th July 2021 05:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2021 05:05 AM   |  A+A-

Preethi Selvaraj

Express News Service

KOCHI: For 43-year-old Preethi Selvaraj, the offer of a job in Doha was irresistible. She was living in a rented home at Njarackkal with her mother, husband and three children, with the family’s sole income coming from her husband who did not have a stable job. The family stayed afloat with the meagre income he made by doing odd jobs. 

With the situation being such, Preethi was quick to conclude that the job as a nanny with an Arab family in Doha, Qatar, with a salary of Rs 23,000 per month, was just what she needed to ease her family’s financial difficulties. Her dream, however, met a premature death as soon as she made it to Doha on March 4, 2020, on a visit visa she had availed with the help of two local ‘agents’ — Saleem and Zakheer.

Soon enough, like many poor women from India who are illegally dispatched as househelps to the Middle East, Preethi too became a victim of brutal abuse and torture at the hands of an Arab family.

“I am lucky to have managed to return home safe. A person who worked with a social organisation in Qatar intervened in my case, after my husband took up the issue with an activist in Kerala. From my very first day at that family’s house, my life was a living hell. Though I informed my agents of the torture I was undergoing at the house after two months, they didn’t listen to me. I was forced to continue working there for one year and four months,” said Preethi, who finally returned to Kochi on July 9 this year. 

“When I repeatedly requested the family to allow me to return to Kerala, they told me I was a slave they had bought by paying lakhs to those agents. I was forced to work continuously without rest, and was only allowed to eat the food they dumped as waste. Two women in the family used to beat me upregularly. They also took custody of my mobile phone to prevent me from calling my family members. I could only take rest for four hours every day. When I persistently demanded to be allowed to return home, they stopped paying me my salary too. For four months, I didn’t get any money,” recalls Preethi, who lodged an official complaint on July 26. 

According to an officer with the Protector of Emigrants (PoE), those who choose to go abroad as maids or nannies should never just trust local agents and go on a visit visa. “Proceed only after consulting the PoE with relevant details. These agents lure vulnerable people  who are not very educated and are unfamiliar with the rules. Moreover, they take money from Arab families with the claim that they are providing them with a slave to do all their chores,” the officer said. 

Njarackkal Circle Inspector Rajan K Aramana said they have registered a case under IPC Section 370 against the accused, who operated as local agents. “We have launched a detailed probe to ascertain whether the two local agents have sent more such people to the Middle East,” he added.


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