There are an estimated 61,000 people living in modern slavery in Saudi Arabia (GSI 2018). It is a source and destination country for men and women trafficked from South and South East Asia and Africa. People voluntarily migrate to the country to work in a variety of sectors including construction and domestic service; many of these workers are vulnerable to forced labour. Traffickers and brokers often illegally recruit migrants to work in Saudi Arabia and subsequently forced them into domestic servitude or debt bondage. Female domestic workers are particularly at risk of trafficking due to their isolation inside private residences. Non-payment or late payment of wages remains a complaint from foreign workers, while employer's withholding of worker's passports remains a significant problem. Trafficking perpetrators include businesses of all sizes, private families, recruitment companies in both Saudi Arabia and labor-sending countries, and organized criminal elements.
A Saudi man, an Indonesian labour agent, and an Indonesian migrant worker deceived Ani R. into believing she was migrating for marriage. At 17 years old, she married the man to help her family but the dowery promised was not given to Ani R.’s father. While Ani was treated well the first month in Saudi Arabia, after this she was subjected to physical abuse and treated as a domestic worker forced to work long hours in the house under the threat of violence. Ani R., tried to escape but her husband found her at a shelter and bribed police to have her return.
I married a Saudi, he’s a teacher. We married in Indonesia. He came to P.T. Sariwati [labor agency], he told the [labor agent] he was looking for a wife. I met him in the P.T., because [an intermediary] from Cianjur introduced us.
I met him at 5 p.m. and I married him at 12 o’clock at night…. I did it because I wanted to help my parents’ economic situation [starts crying]. He promised me 15 million rupiah [$1,636]74 before marriage, but the dowry was not given. He promised he would give it to me when I went with him to Saudi Arabia, that … he would send this money to my parents … via the person from Cianjur. [still crying]
My father received 6 million rupiah. I don’t know what happened to the other 9 million. When I got married, my husband took me to Saudi Arabia, and for the first month he was nice. Then…he treated me like a housekeeper and he beat me up… My husband didn’t let me make phone calls or write letters.
When he asked me to marry him, he said he was unmarried. After we had sex, he told me he had two wives and six children. Each wife has three children. I wanted to go home when I heard that…. The labor agent in Indonesia knew that my husband was married and he still let me marry him. That Cianjur lady was working in his sister’s house as a maid [and had deceived me].
When [my husband] faced problems outside, he was angry at home. He would check the bookcase with a tissue to see if there was dust or not. If he saw dust, he grabbed my hair and said, “You are lying,” and he grabbed my hair and took me to the bedroom and beat me several times. He always told me I didn’t work very well and beat me.
The first time I ran away, I was [in a shelter]…. They were all runaways, with the same problems as me, their sponsors beat them. I stayed there for one week and my husband came and a police officer asked me to go with my husband. The police told me to go with him because they only knew that he was my sponsor, they thought that I was his maid….
The police forced me to go back to my husband, my sponsor. They forced me to go with him. I told the police, “I don’t want to go with the sponsor, because he is not good, he always beats me, I want to go to the Indonesian embassy.” The police said, “You are better off with the sponsor because you didn’t even earn enough for your ticket home.” After I came home, my husband gave money to the police. A lot, I don’t know how much.
When I came back with him in his car, he threw away my clothes. I took two dresses and two pairs of underwear and on the way home, he threw out the rest of my clothes. When we reached home, he beat me again. I said, “I’m hurt,” but he never stopped. I was crying, but he didn’t care.
At his mother’s house, she treated me like a maid, because she didn’t know that I was his wife. Even his sister didn’t know.
I just want to go home. [crying] I don’t want to see my husband anymore. I am afraid of my husband. I have been traumatized because he beat me, I always remember how he beat me. If I stay here, I will be stressed and depressed. It is better for me to go home to Indonesia to my parents.
Narrative as told to Human Rights Watch for their report “As If I Am Not Human”:Abuses against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia.
All credit given.