This time last year, Tashi was in Baghdad, working from 7am till midnight. She did not even get a proper meal.
Lured to Iraq by a local agent, who claimed she could earn USD 350 a month, she was trafficked by colluding local and foreign agents, which are unauthorised and illegal in the country.
She reached Iraq in November 2019 and lived a horrible and helpless life, emotionally and physically tired. “I cried and prayed every day.”
By December 2019, she formed social media groups for Bhutanese women working in inhospitable conditions, abused and wanting to return home. They contacted many Bhutanese officials, including police and Members of Parliament to help and rescue them. They even lodged formal complaint letters.
Bhutanese women, working as agents in Bhutan and Iraq, were threatening Tashi and others that the government would never be able to rescue them and that they would have to face dire consequences.
“Rescuing women from here isn’t as easy as lifting things,” an agent threatened. “The government can’t even fill potholes in the country. How will they pay so much money to the agents here?” another woman said.
While some people told Tashi that the government was working to rescue them, many said it would not be possible. “I prayed every day. I wanted to stay strong and hopeful that I might be rescued but a part of me was dying too,” she said. “I was scared I’d never see my aged parents and son.”
By July, Tashi heard that there was a command from His Majesty to rescue all women in Iraq.
What Tashi heard was true. His Majesty The King commanded that every effort and resource must be used to bring the women safely home.
Rescue works progressed. A task force was formed and officials worked tirelessly until all the 160 women, including some of the agents, were brought home in groups of three to 132 at a time, spending about Nu 140M.
“If not for His Majesty The King’s benevolence, I wouldn’t have seen my parents and son,” Tashi said. She underwent Desuung training and has volunteered for national service since the second lockdown. “This is the only way I can thank His Majesty The King.”
Tashi said that most women, who went to Iraq, came from economically disadvantaged families and would never be in a position to pay the agents there, who demanded USD 3,500 to USD 7,000 to rescue a woman. “We were rescued by His Majesty’s compassion and love.”
Kesang, who was beaten and tortured by the agents down there, is now a desuup too. “I joined Desuung to thank His Majesty and to serve the country,” she said. “Were it not for His Majesty The King, we might be still there suffering a life in hell.”