Skip to main content

Bangladeshi maid in Saudi Arabia says employers poured 'hot oil' on arms

Sumi Akter issues desperate plea on a Facebook video asking Bangladesh to take her home
Sumi Akter showed scars from when hot oil was poured onto her arms while working in Saudi Arabia (MEE Graphics)

Hiding from her abusers inside a toilet, a Bangladeshi maid in Saudi Arabia made a desperate plea to be taken home, saying she had been assaulted and starved by her Saudi employers. 

In a video posted on Monday, 25-year-old Sumi Akter said she was physically assaulted by her employers, who had poured hot oil on her arms.

"I perhaps won't live longer. Please save me. They locked me up for 15 days and barely gave me any food. They hit me and then burned my arms with hot oil," Akter said in Bengali as she wept and showed scars on her arms. 

Bangladesh rules out ban on female workers going to Saudi Arabia despite abuse
Read More »

"They took me from one home to another one. In the first home, they tortured me and hit me repeatedly and then took me to another one where I experienced the same."

In the video, Akter is seen holding the phone close to her face as she apparently hides from her employers, secretly recording her plea for help. She also alleged that she was sexually assaulted by her employers. 

Her husband, Nurul Islam, told the AFP news agency that he had been trying to "get her back but couldn't".

At present, Akter is still in her Saudi employer's home in Jeddah and her phone has been confiscated, according to a representative from BRAC, a Bangladeshi NGO that is working to bring her home.

Akter also said in another video posted a month ago that she had no positive response from the Bangladeshi government or the brokers that had initially arranged for her work in Saudi Arabia when asking for assistance.

Social activists in Dhaka protest against abuse of female migrant workers inside Saudi Arabia (AFP)
Social activists in Dhaka protest against abuse of female migrant workers inside Saudi Arabia (AFP)

Akter's video has led to widespread criticism and protests on the streets of Bangladesh's Dhaka, following false reports on social media that she was dead. 

However, Akter's family has since said she is alive and working with the Bangladeshi government, which issued a rare appeal to Saudi Arabia on Sunday for her repatriation. 

Her video comes after the body of a female migrant worker was repatriated to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia in late October. 

Figures compiled by BRAC noted that, in this year alone, the bodies of 48 female workers were brought back to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year, the Bangladeshi government admitted for the first time that women had returned home from Saudi Arabia because of sexual abuse. 

Since 1991, at least 300,000 Bangladeshi women have travelled to Saudi Arabia for work, according to the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare. 

Remittances are the second biggest source of income for Bangladesh's economy, with the government recently ruling out proposals to issue a ban on female workers going to the Gulf kingdom.