Jan 11, 2020
Dreaming for better employment opportunities to support their families back home, many Bhutanese women left for Iraq. But the harsh reality there saw their dreams turned into nightmares.
Forget about sending money back home to their families, the women find themselves encountering multiple problems and fearing for their lives.
BSS could meet one of the women who returned back to Bhutan. Under anonymity, she shares that she along with one of her friends left for Iraq with two years contract term with an agreement of a monthly salary of USD $ 350. She said, she returned back before the expiry of her contract due to harsh working conditions and ill-treatment from her employer after paying a hefty penalty for breaching the contract term.
“When I went from Bhutan, I didn’t know the working conditions in Iraq. I went there thinking that I can repay my loan from my salary. When I reached there, forget about repaying the loan, there is a risk of even losing one’s life. I landed up taking meals with my tears and emotions. Our working hour started from 7 am and it lasted till 2:30-3 am the next day without a break. We used to get rice once a week, most of the time, we landed up taking bread with curd and black tea as our meals. We were given an outing once a month, that also from 9 am till 5 pm,” she shares.
It is reported that currently more than 200 Bhutanese women are placed in different parts of Iraq. Today, most of them wish to come back but their contract terms are far from over. They have to pay on an average of around USD $ 4500 if they breach the contract agreement.
“Like me, there are many Bhutanese women who are still working in Iraq. Most of them wish to come back. They are asking me to help them return to Bhutan but I alone cannot do anything. I keep on telling them to pray since I cannot help them immediately. There are many reports that Bhutanese women were harassed and physically abused at workplaces,” she added.
Some of the Bhutanese women who are currently in Iraq said, initially the agents told them the working placement is somewhere near Dubai. They said, later many of them got cheated by the agents and individuals regarding the placement.
“When we came from Bhutan, we were told that we don’t have to do more than one work. But while reaching here, we have to do multiple works such as babysitting and many other household chores. We have to even cook for owners and when we don’t know how to cook, they scold us. They even don’t allow us to use mobile phones thinking that we may spread the news to Bhutan about our conditions. But some of us use it without the knowledge of our owners. I am chatting with you since my owner went outside right now,” said a Bhutanese woman on phone, who requests anonymity from Iraq.
“Please convey our message to the concerned authority to save us and to take us back to Bhutan within this week. We have to stay in fear always. We are suffering here and we may die here because of the fear. I don’t have any regret if I die in Bhutan. I just wanted to see my mother’s face. I am not pretending, I am telling seriously,” another Bhutanese in Iraq shares in between sobs.
“They don’t keep us free even during our sickness. I am facing a tough time working since I have a boil. They don’t have any mercy. We have to work without a proper meal sometimes,” she added in a muffled voice.
According to sources, most housemaids went to Iraq themselves through social media advertisement. And some of them went along with some Bhutanese women who have been working there.
Meanwhile, an official from the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources says, the Ministry doesn’t have any registered national employment agency that sends Bhutanese to Iraq. The Ministry reminds every Bhutanese to contact the Ministry to authenticate employment agencies in such cases.
Moreover, during the recent Meet the Press session, the Foreign Minister said the government is working with the relevant agencies to solve the problem. The Minister added, the government has been able to track some of the unlicensed companies and individuals who sent Bhutanese women to Iraq and currently investigating the case.
Pema Tshewang/Karma Wangdi