20 OFWs Being Abused by Employer in Saudi Arabia, Many Treated as Sex Slave

Jun. 29, 2009

Bulatlat/Posted by Davao Today

MANILA (June 28) – An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who recently returned to the Philippines has made an urgent appeal to help rescue 20 other women OFWs in Saudi Arabia, some of whom are being treated as sex slaves by her former employer. She said several of the women have been raped.

In a press conference held Saturday at the office of Migrante International, Aliyah, not her real name, said she fears the abuses committed by her former employer, Abu Khalid, on the other women have not stopped.

We demand that the Arroyo administration conduct an immediate rescue mission to save the 20 Filipinas who are still being held in the harem of Abu Khalid, said Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante. The Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia should also ensure that the Filipinas be brought to a hospital for medical treatment and that criminal cases be filed against Abu Khalid, he said.

Aliyah said her employer tried to rape her. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)

Aliyah herself was nearly raped by Abu Khalid, she narrated at the press conference. She bewailed that she and the other women have to go through the ordeal because of the lack of employment back home.

Aliyah, 29, had worked for two years as a babysitter in Dubai. There, she witnessed and experienced how Filipino migrant workers endured hard work abroad to be able to send money to their families back home. Aliyah returned home three years ago and promised never to work abroad again.

But since then, Aliyah and her husband never found a stable source of income to sustain their needs. Even though they do not have children of their own, Aliyah was forced to provide support to her siblings since their father died many years ago.

In November last year, Aliyah heard about an enticing job offer from a friend who was applying as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia. Instead of paying a placement fee outright, the agency would deduct it from my first salary. I only had to pay for my medical check up and other miscellaneous fees amounting to P10,000, Aliyah said.

Having little or no opportunity for employment here at home, Aliyah decided to try her luck again.

She applied as a babysitter. She and her sister completed their requirements late last year and signed the contract early this year. During the contract signing, Aliyah remembered that they were not given the opportunity by the AFT Company, a recruitment agency in Ermita, Manila, to read the provisions stipulated in the contract. They told us that we would earn 800 riyals but we never saw what was written in the contract, she said.

On the actual day of departure last May 20, her husband asked the staff of the agency for a copy of Aliyah’s contract. But he was given a blank contract. No salary and employer’s name was stipulated, she said, We were only given a copy of the contract as we were approaching the check-in counter at the airport.

Fortunately, upon arriving in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, they were told that they were going to get a salary of 800 riyals. But in the following few days, Aliyah’s misfortune began.

Attempted Rape

Instead of the babysitting job that she had applied for in the Philippines, Aliyah became an all-around domestic helper for the family of her employer. My employer did not give me food nor water for two days and two nights, she said, adding that she lost consciousness and was brought back to the agency the next day.

The Maqpoon Belahodood General Service Company, Aliyah’s recruitment agency in Dammam, then brought her to a hospital where she was treated and had the opportunity to rest for only five hours. Aliyah worked for the family for a total of only five days. She was not paid for it. Neither was she compensated for the health risks she endured after what her employer did to her.

Now unemployed, Aliyah had no choice but to stay at the recruitment agency owned and managed by Abu Khalid until the management found a new job for her.

During the first few days of her stay in the agency, Aliyah said she heard many stories from fellow Filipino women about domestic helpers like them being raped by Abu Khalid.

They told me there were many women who were repeatedly raped by Abu Khalid. Some were sent home but did not file charges, Aliyah said, adding that Abu Khalid even raped a Filipino woman who was so sick she had blood in her feces.

One day in May, Aliyah was summoned by Abu Khalid to his office. Aliyah knew what could possibly happen since it was already 9 p.m., way beyond official business hours. So before I went down to his office, I wore three layers of clothes so that he would have difficulty undressing me if he decided to rape me, Aliyah said.

Before he attempted to rape me, he asked me if I was contented with the sex I was having with my husband. He also asked me what positions I liked, she said. I asked him what he wanted from me and he told me that he would never allow me to go home until he had enjoyed himself with me.

Migrante wants government to rescue the 20 OFWs behind held against their will. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)

Aliyah said Abu Khalid must have noticed her will to fight so he started to undress himself. I immediately grabbed a pen. The first thing I wanted to do was to hit his eyes so he would not be able to see me, Aliyah said, adding that in this encounter Abu Khalid was able to remove part of her clothing.

He became hesitant when he noticed that I was seriously considering stabbing him with the pen so he let me go, saying that he would make sure that he would be able to ‘taste’ me before I go, she said.

Last May 30, Aliyah said Abu Khalid summoned her again. I was determined to fight. I told him that I would rather go out of his office dead rather than be raped by him, she said, adding that this made him hesitate. He was also afraid that other women would know about his evil acts. He did not know that most OFWs knew about his acts, she added.

He is a pig. We, the Filipinos there, never looked at him as a human being, Aliyah said

Rescue Operation

We had no one to go to for help because even his staff sided with him. So I was surprised to hear on June 7 from his secretary that I had a plane ticket for a flight back home that day, she said.

Aliyah said she is worried about the 20 other Filipino women who were left in the custody of Abu Khalid. Most of the women there have been raped repeatedly and I am sure that they are still being raped every day, she said.

My companions there told me that once I got out of Abu Khalid’s office, I should seek help. They told me that I was their only hope. This is why I am doing this, Aliyah said, referring to the press conference.

Upon arriving in the Philippines, Aliyah said she only rested for a while and immediately went to Migrante to give her statement and to try to arrange a rescue operation for her companions back in Dammam.

Last June 23, a friend called Aliyah up and was crying on the phone pleading that they be rescued right away. The cellular phone her friend was using was suddenly grabbed from her. Abu Khalid was at the other end. Migrante’s Martinez, who was with Aliyah at the time the call was made, talked to him.

He told me that I was only creating trouble and that we are making a big issue out of it, Martinez said. He claimed he has done nothing against the 20 women who were left in his office.

I told him that we already know that he attempted to rape Aliyah and when he failed to do so, he sent her home, Martinez said.

After his conversation with Khalid, Martinez said they received a call from Migrante’s Middle East coordinator, John Monterona, who informed them about an ongoing rescue operation. Around 7 p.m. Migrante received confirmation that only two of the women were rescued, including Aliyah’s sister and another Filipino woman. We are sad that others were left, Martinez said.

Martinez criticized the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia for not doing enough to rescue the women. The only thing that the embassy did was to call for assistance from the local police there, Martinez said, adding that if Migrante did not call and send an email to the Philippine embassy, embassy officials would not have acted on the case.

Aliyah said four rape complaints had been filed against Abu Khalid in June. This means that they already had an idea about what was happening. But I do not understand why the government is not doing anything. They are very slow in responding to our needs. I am thankful that we were able to contact Migrante Middle East who helped us rescue the women in Abu Khalid’s office.

Martinez said they are still waiting for the results of the medico-legal examination on the two women who were recently rescued.

Martinez added that they are asking the embassy in Saudi Arabia not to deport the victims, explaining that, based on Migrante’s experience, ‘once the victim is deported, the case filed against the suspect becomes weaker.

Aliyah said the Arroyo administration should make sure that the OFWs welfare and safety are a priority. We are saving the economy of the Philippines. I think that it is but right that they, too, save us from any cruelty that we face abroad, she said.

She advised Filipinos who are planning to work abroad to make sure that they understand the contract they are being asked to sign and know the contact details of both the embassy and Migrante because, according to her, they can never be sure about their safety once they are out of the country.

Martinez urged President Arroyo to put on hold its intensifying labor exportation program. The biggest number of OFWs leaving the country is domestic helpers and their main destination is Saudi Arabia, a country that doesn’t even recognize the right of domestic helpers to have a day off. (Bulatlat.com/Posted by Davao Today)

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