While millions are fleeing war-torn Syria, many Bangladeshi women are being trafficked to the country and forced to work as domestic maids.
The women, who are duped into travelling to Syria, often have no idea that they are being sent to a war zone.
“Sister, please take me back home from this hell. They [the employers] are not good people. They say they have bought me and won’t let me go back to Bangladesh,” said a woman, who was promised a job in a Lebanese hospital but found herself forced into domestic service in the Syrian capital Damascus.
“There is war everywhere. They don’t give me food properly and I spend sleepless nights because of the bomb explosions,” she added breaking into tears while talking to Prothom Alo in a telephonic conversation on past Wednesday.
The women, who begged to be sent back to Bangladesh, said she is now working as domestic help for a Syrian woman Naha in Damascus.
Naha told Prothom Alo that she bought the Bangladeshi woman at $3,000 and she could do anything with her.
Prothom Alo contacted with the trafficked woman through a Viber number obtained by her husband who came to Dhaka from Kushtia on Wednesday.
Similarly, another woman of Rajbari, being tortured, returned Bangladesh on 13 January from Syria.
Allegations have been raised that women are being trafficked to Syria from Bangladesh in the name of being recruited as domestic help or hospital workers.
In this regard, Prothom Alo published a report on 5 November, 2015 titled ‘Women being trafficked to Syria as sex workers, maids’.
The women are first sent to Dubai from Dhaka and then to Amman and finally to Damascus.
According to a report of the foreign ministry, a total of 79 women have been trafficked to war-torn Syria from Bangladesh. The ministry has directed the expatriates welfare and overseas employment ministry to bring these women back home.
Cabinet secretary Khandaker M Iftekhar Haider said that it is their responsibility to cancel licences of travel agencies if they send people abroad illegally or found to be involved in human trafficking.
They said they are yet to obtain any list of women who are now being forcefully kept in Syria. And so, bringing these women back home is not their duty.
According to Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officials, some recruiting agencies in connivance with an international ring of human traffickers are trafficking women with promises of jobs in the Middle East.
Such agencies are Al-Rabeta International, Al-Hasib International, Sikder Travels, Bangladesh Expert Corporation, Hasan International and Namira Overseas.
RAB-3 commander Khandaker Golam Sarowar told Prothom Alo that they have arrested some of those who are involved in trafficking women.
However, no step has so far been taken to repatriate the Bangladeshi women stuck in war-torn Syria as domestic maids, he added.