RESOURCE: Almaz’s Story-Human Trafficking, Slave Labor

Human Imprint: This is a short, illustrated story based upon real events. 

Topics: Modern slave labor, human trafficking, migrant workers

Source: BBC News

The story, in cartoons, of Almaz who left her home in Ethiopia to work in Saudi Arabia.
For the first time in her life, Almaz flew. The man who met her at Riyadh airport took her passport saying he would keep it safe.
Almaz was taken to the house where she would work as a maid. Her new employer, Mama, told her to wash the floors, make the beds, wash the sheets, cook and not complain - she said the last maid was "worse than useless". Almaz reassured herself that she was safe and it would be OK.
Almaz woke up at 05:00 every day to pray before starting her chores. When she served food, Mama said it was "muck" and was not edible calling her a stupid girl. Almaz made the beds, fed the family's pet birds, cleaned the toilets and sometimes didn't crawl into bed until 02:00.
When Almaz was changing sheets in the bedroom, the man of the house sexually assaulted her. "Not again," she begged, but he wouldn't stop. Later he criticised her for burning the pizza and asked how she could be so stupid.
For several weeks, life settled into a rhythm - Almaz would scrub floors, cook and clean. She was unable to stop the sexual assaults and used to sit on her bed dreaming of home.
In Ethiopia, Almaz's mother struggled to make ends meet. She was waiting for her daughter to send money home and could not even afford to pay for a cup of milk.
One day, when Almaz was scrubbing the floor, her employer told her that she and her husband were taking a trip abroad. While they were away, Almaz would be sent to stay with Mama's sister Shada. Almaz had to load the heavy suitcases into the car and accompany Mama to the mall to buy a designer handbag for Shada's birthday.
When they arrived at Shada's house, Almaz unloaded the car and tried to talk to the maid who lived there but was warned not to chat. That night Almaz asked a bad-tempered Mama to pay her wages but Mama refused because she was busy getting ready to go to New York the following the morning.  When Almaz begged for the money, explaining that her mother needed it to survive, Mama hit her.
Mama and her husband left for New York and Almaz was left with Shada and her family to cook and clean for them. Almaz was desperate to send money home to Ethiopia, so asked Shada if she could pay her - Shada refused and shut Almaz in a cupboard.
Almaz broached the subject of wages again but Shada told her not to be rude. Almaz was standing on a chair cleaning an open window - when she broke down and said she couldn't carry on working without pay, Shada told her to shut up and grabbed her arms. When Shada hit Almaz, the maid fell out of the window and injured her back.
Almaz couldn't get out of bed for days - Shada's husband and her sister were among those who came to look at her commenting that she was to blame for falling out of the window and that they didn't want to be responsible for her. In the end, they gave Almaz her passport and got their driver to take her to the airport and put her on a plane back to Ethiopia. The driver confided that he missed his family too.
This story was was based on a testimony received in April 2014. We interviewed the real Almaz as she recovered from her ordeal at a women's refuge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Names and identifying details have been changed.

 

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