ROHIT RAIDHARAN, June 1: With a head full of dreams and a heart full of hopes for a better future for herself and her family, Sita Khadka Tamang, 40, of Dharan-17 left home for Kuwait last year. But all her dreams were shattered as, instead of Kuwait, she was taken to Iraq where she had to struggle for her survival.She recalls those eleven months in Iraq as a nightmare. After going through all the trouble, she finally returned home on Wednesday from Iraq via New Delhi. She heaved a sigh of relief and said, "It was a near-death experience for me. I had lost the hope of returning home alive."
Just a few days after reaching Iraq, she fell ill. But she had to work despite her illness, without getting treatment. When her employer found out about her illness, she was fired. As a result, she had to work for different landlords within a short period. "I hardly got time to rest as they forced me to work despite my illness," she recalls.
With eyes full of tears, she shared her horrible experience in Iraq with the officials of Samana Nepal, an NGO, on Thursday. "In the 11 months, I could send back home just Rs 17,000. I thought I will return home with some money but I rather returned in debt," she added.
The trafficker who had bought her declined to take her responsibility as she was unable to work properly due to her illness. She was sold to another broker who too was not happy with her and kept bargaining with the first one to return the amount (USD 7,500) which he had paid for her. "That's when I realized that I had been sold to a new middleman who kept pressurizing me to go to work," she said. According to her, he often threatened to kill her.
She was not given proper food and had to sleep on a sofa. One day, she shared her illness with her landlord. Fortunately, the landlord was kind enough to take her to a hospital for treatment. It was revealed that she had a crack in a bone behind her neck. By then, her family had started searching for her. Her son Sagar had submitted an application to Samana Nepal for help.
The officials of Samana Nepal contacted her through email and were successful in finding out the human traffickers who had taken her to Iraq. "We first spoke with a woman named Sharmila who later introduced us to other members of the trafficking network when we threatened to file a human trafficking case against her," said Chetana Shreng, chairperson of Samana Nepal. When the member of the trafficking network in Iraq put her in a vehicle, she had thought he was going to kill her. "I thought I was about to die as I had no idea that I was returning to Nepal," she said.
How she was trafficked?
After Sita sold her vegetable shop, it became difficult for her to make her families' ends meet. She was debt-ridden and that compelled her to make up her mind to go for foreign employment. She was close with her neighbor Sharmila Rai with whom she shared her plan. Sharmila then spoke to Pema Sherpa, one of her relatives in Kathmandu and sought help. They also provided Rs 20,000 to make her passport. She left home on August 12 last year. Her husband Ram Bahadur was completely in the dark regarding all this.
As suggested by Pema, she reached Birtamod from Dharan where she was received by Krishna Tamang. She stayed at his home that day along with five other women. Next day, a boy named Ganesh Jogi, a 16 or 17 years old boy, took them to Bagdogra by crossing the border point at Kakarvitta. According to Sita, he was paid Rs. 10,000 for each woman. Despite the checking by Maiti Nepal, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force teams at the border, they were able to cross the border. "They didn't ask me anything while we were crossing the border," said Sita.
After staying in Bagdogra for a night, they reached Delhi where they were received by a person named Dil Karki. There were 40 more women who stayed with them in Delhi for almost a month. Later, traffickers sent them to Iraq via Dubai.
Caption: Sita Khadka who returned from Iraq on Wednesday.