Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Case 1: Juna Budha Thoki

Dear Readers,

Below is the first case I ever had - A Nepali girl called Juna who worked as a housemaid in Rumaithiya. She was 4 pregnant with her husband's child when we met her at Al-Razi Hospital. Her husband works in India.

It is important to make the distinction that she was pregnant with her husband's child because if an Asian looking woman is walking around pregnant - guess what everyone, including the authorities, assumes straight away?

Juna escaped from two separate sets of people - first her employers and then a couple who picked her up on the road promising to take her to her agency. Instead she was taken to their home and locked up. Juna says little about these episodes other than that all of them were ‘bad people’.

Her escape from the 3rd floor resulted in fractured spine and legs. Like most of the girls in the hospital, when we asked her what exactly happened she just said 'mama mu zain', 'baba mu zain' and we are left to fill in the blanks.

Our immediate concern was that, since Juna was pregnant - the usual trip,
1. early discharge from hospital without full healing
2. prison with squat toilets
3. deportation center with filthy conditions ...

...would be terrible for her spine and legs.

Despite our best efforts, Juna was discharged with her injuries unhealed to Rumaithiya prison because her sponsors had filed a case against her for ‘running away’. Juna suffered much spinal pain from her fracture and her pregnancy.

The police assured us that the deportation center she was going to next, was a ‘hotel’ for the maids with beds and proper facilities. But when we saw it, we were aghast at the conditions – no beds, filthy mattresses lining a wet floor, cramped with women, guarded by only men who looked at them only in one way. Some of them had been there for months – one lady even going mad and removing her clothing and walking around.

We were told that if we purchased a ticket they would let Juna fly as her passport was already in hand. With individually donated funds (we were not a charity, just some concerned ppl) we bought one and handed it in. In the mean time we visited Juna and gave a back brace for her spine - to help her painful visits to the toilet.

A day before the flight we went to the deportation center just to check on her – Imagine our shock when they told us no she would not fly. They had her passport they had the ticket we provided, all the legal work was done, but she would not fly. Why? Because they had entered her name on their list as Nuna not Juna. A clerical error was preventing her from going home. Only if her name was nuna could she go. How many more clerical errors were on that list I don't know.

When we said hey look this name is wrong, just correct it on the list so she can go home, they refused to do anything about it...Men told us to get lost, go away and not come back, they asked us who we were in relation to Juna and why we were helping. They even referred to one of our African volunteers as ‘Sudani’. Some just said ‘we are not going to help you’.

It is difficult to explain the humiliation some of us had to go through - being gestured at like animals, like slaves.

On the actual day of the flight, verbal fights occurred with our ids being asked for and the threat of deportation looming. One of our friends simply refused to budge until something was done. She yelled Haram angrily and caused a public scene. After a long time, simply out of anger and frustration at having a girl yelling in the center, they guaranteed that Juna would be sent to the airport that night at 7pm , 3 hours before her flight.

Our friend did not believe them and stayed in the deportation center from 6 onwards. At 7 – there was no movement. 8 no movement. At 9, one hour before the flight, someone arrived and Juna was transported to the airport, with a volunteer trailing the car to make sure it did not deviate.

At the airport, Juna was on crutches as her pain had gotten very bad. We called for a wheelchair for her but the official from the deportation center, A Kuwaiti man done up in the regular white robes, said no - she must walk. We were horrified. Numerous times she was offered a wheelchair by Airport officials. A Bengali cleaner was so enraged that she was walking he offered to pay any costs to get her in a wheelchair. But the Deportation escort refused. When she sat down in one, the man motioned with his fingers – get up. He forced her to walk painfully all the way from the airport entrance to her gate.

Everyone in the airport looked on in shock as a well-to-do Kuwaiti man made a poor pregnant Nepali woman with a spinal injury go without a wheelchair because he wanted it that way and had the authority to make it happen. We pleaded with him that she was pregnant and injured, but his face only said that we were wasting his time with the whole ordeal.

So there you have it folks. This is the most summarised version I could come up with. The amount of wastha and official nonsense we had to go through would be several paragraphs longer - at the level of hospital, jail, deportation center and two random other buildings.

Although this case took two months from start to finish, with Juna spending significant amounts of time in the deportation center... she called us recently. She is reunited with her husband and the last thing we heard was her laughing when she said goodbye and thanks.

If we had not taken a personal interest in Juna, as a person, a clerical error would have kept her here in the deportation center, to give birth, and possibly have her baby taken away on suspicion of not being her husband's. This would have been her 5th month in the deportation center.

And still there are ladies there who have had this happen and continue to live day in, day out, going mad in Kuwait's very own Guantanamo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beyond horrific.

We are people who prefer not to know in regards to the atrocities that domestic workers go through.

Great post, well written. I especially liked the ending.

Human Rights Watch will - very soon - uncover what goes on and shames Kuwait for what it has done, which serves us right since we still prefer not to know.