BIRATNAGAR, Nov 7: A woman from Nepal’s Jhapa district who has been held hostage in Saudi Arabia for the past 15 years has pleaded with the government to rescue her.
A permanent resident of Tiring village in Mechinagar-1 in the district, Sharmila Kisan Magar was taken to Saudi Arabia in the name of someone else. She remained out of contact with her family since she reached Saudi Arabia.
But after she came to their contact two months ago, Sharmila and her family here in Jhapa have appealed to the government to rescue her from her ‘employers’.
"They do not allow me to talk to anyone. I am a prisoner here," she said over the phone. "I am now speaking to you from the bathroom after topping up my mobile with 10 riyal I just borrowed. I called our embassy here for nine months for help. But no one turned up to help me."
A permanent resident of the erstwhile Bahundangi Village Development Committee-9 in the district, Magar's family earned a living through daily wages. She had decided to go abroad for work with the family’s consent out of the hope that she could pull her family out of poverty.
Promised by one of her family acquaintances that she could get lucrative employment, the family kept as collateral five Kattha of land to get a loan to fly her to Saudi Arabia. The manpower agents then flew her to Saudi Arabia, but with the identity of Lila Maya Dhimal of Lakhanpur-4 of the same district. Illiterate as she is, Sharmila did not know this for long.
Upon reaching Saudi Arabia, Sharmila started working as a baby-sitter. But her hopes to pull her family out of poverty were dashed when her employer refused to pay her a salary.
Born to a family of Magar, Sharmila had a love marriage with a local Banda Kisan. But her family could not recover the land that was kept as collateral to receive the loan for Sharmila to fly to Saudi Arabia.
While her husband Banda died three years ago, her daughter, whom she left back home at an early age, married on her own recently. Her only son has experienced severe mental health issues. "I have come to learn that the health condition of my son is not good. I do not have any money for his treatment. My house owner does not allow me to go anywhere from the house," she complained. "I could have managed my disintegrated family if the government rescued me from here."
Sharmila said she does not have even a single penny as she was never paid her salary. "One of my eyes is damaged as I was indiscriminately beaten up by the son of my employer," she further said. "They have tortured me on a routine basis."
Sharmila's family in Jhapa has also urged the government to extend necessary assistance for her rescue. "We had given up hope that we would be able to trace her whereabouts. Although our sister has finally come to our contact, it is learnt that she was taken there in someone else's identity. Her visa has also already expired. We do not have any idea how to bring back our sister who is living as a hostage in Saudi Arabia," said her younger brother Hem Raj Magar.