May 6th, 2013
01:24 AM ET

Women trafficked to Iraq

By Atika Shubert, CNN

(CNN) Like so many Indonesian women, Eli Anita wanted to earn more money than she could at home.

In 2007, she moved to Dubai through a labor recruitment company where, she says, her manager immediately began harassing her for sex, at one point becoming violent.

“He got very angry and he also beat me and kidnapped me in the bathroom for many hours. He locked the door,” she says in broken English.

“And he said 'Eli, just obey to me and I will give you everything.' I said, 'I’m sorry. But I came for working. I will not allow anybody to touch my body or anyone working on my body, like this.' Then he asked me, 'What do you want?'  I said I want another job.”

Eli says her employer offered her a new job in Italy, but she didn’t recognize the place.

She told CNN he said, “I will send you to new country, high technology, good country. Kurdistan is a part of Italy.”

For a village girl from Indonesia, Eli says she had no idea about Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, and at that time in the midst of war.

She says she was flown to Erbil airport under the constant watch of labor company chaperones with about a dozen other women from Ethiopia, Indonesia and the Philippines. She says the labor company took her passport.

“All of them don’t know where is Kurdistan.  I’m asking, 'Where is Kurdistan?' Immigration man said: 'Why do you want to go there?' He keep saying in Arabic, 'It’s very dangerous.' But I have no choice because my agency always by my side and watching me. They are afraid I am running away.”

As they passed army checkpoints with U.S. soldiers, Eli says she slowly began to figure out where they were. She finally convinced one of her minders to let her call her Dubai employer.

“So, I call the agency and say, 'You sent me to Iraq when you telling me it’s part of Italia?' He say, 'Eli just keep quiet. I already received $4,500.' So, I knew at that time, they sell me.”

She tried to run away several times. But after days on the street, she was found by labor agency workers, dragged back and, she says, beaten as a punishment.  She describes the incident vividly.

'Because the agency also kidnap me inside the bathroom and hold a gun to my head. 'If you doesn’t stop all your actions and calling your government, I will kill you.'"

But the feisty Eli says she refused to back down in the face of their threat.

“If you want to kill me, shoot me right now,"  she remembers telling them. “But if you kill me, you send my body back home.  If not I will wake up again! They said 'you are crazy,' majnoon in Arabic.  I said, yes, I’m majnoon because of you!”

Eli finally escaped by secretly contacting the International Labour Organization. They brokered her release from the labor agency and transported her home to Indonesia.

CNN confronted the man that Eli says sold her, trafficking her from Dubai to Iraq.  He refused to talk to us or give us his side of the story.

Eli now works with Migrant Care in Jakarta, Indonesia where she shares her experience with other would-be migrants workers as a cautionary tale.

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Topics: In The News

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Rajashekar Narayana

    If you lack information and ground reality coupled with being illiterate, you are going to be exploited and inevitable that you would become just a puppet and scapegoat at the hands of criminals just pretending like employers

    May 6, 2013 at 3:46 am | Reply
    • Concerned

      We continue to come up with excuses of illiterate migrant workers... but we have yet to hold the governments accountable for such actions... not just UAE but also Indonesia and others.... at the very end... the so called PIMPS or slave masters also pay fees to government officials which approve such actions.

      May 6, 2013 at 4:25 am | Reply
    • DaLe

      You talking about G.W.Bush?

      Anyhow, i have worked for personal agencies in the UK and Germany, and particularly at an agency in the UK it wasn't uncommon to be called at 9am with request to be somewhere where never been before in 2 hours. True tho, that i can legally live as resident in both countries, had my own living, and could have denied respectivly quit and looked for another job. And au pair isn't uncommon particularly in the UK neither, with such being often also an opportunity for study of language, and other things – with the education system in the UK seeming to be rather welcoming to whoever.

      Besides all that, the entire economy isn't just pop and galleries. Not only CEOs but also many of them who consider themselves informed and literate appreciate not having to do everything needed in that civilization themselves, and if they think that anyone would be doing it for them for the love of it, then they seem to be actually misinformed in the first place.

      May 6, 2013 at 10:48 am | Reply
      • Dirk

        No, Obama.

        May 7, 2013 at 3:16 am |
      • Dirk

        Drones still killing people (actually up from the Bush days), Gitmo still open, still wars in Iraq and Afganistan, and add to that US involvement in Libia and soon Syria. Yeah, Obama sure is a lot different from Bush.

        May 7, 2013 at 3:19 am |
    • aw

      i i strongly disagree with you by blaming on the victim. I am Indonesian and lived there for 24 yrs i know what such an agency willing to do to get the innocent victim to be their workers. The woman that tell this story is very lucky to get help and back home while a lot of other victim killed or punished by death penalty because they are against the person they work for, mostly the destination is middle east, malaysia and china. The Indonesian goverment is so weak that they cant even protect their own citizen, what a shame!

      May 6, 2013 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • david mill

      she moved to Dubai through a labor recruitment company

      WHY is the name of the company not in the article? Why aren't they shut down and jailed?

      May 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Reply
      • Lilac

        Because important Emirati people own those recruiting companies,,,maybe Sheiks!

        August 21, 2014 at 8:39 pm |
  2. Concerened

    Dubai prides itself in a very " clean" human rights record. So why didn't CNN contact the relevant government agency to complain about this pimp. Ah but you cannot touch certain section of the society there.And there are thousands of such " labor " agencies practicing human trafficking in the U.A.E.

    May 6, 2013 at 4:21 am | Reply
    • DaLe

      Well, one thing surely is that based not only on the article here Dubaians seems completly incompetent at anything from business to relations, and that they arguably want to hide that reality. A bit different thing that the actual victim is now outside Dubai boundaries, and probably from other cases it show that either something lacks in legislature, executive, and/or judicial, or simply while from the sounds of it a case of exploitation, there regarding the "transfer" possibly not being a criminal delict at hand, from the mentioned besides the issue of forced stay which didn't happen in Dubai tho.

      Anyhow, as Kurdistan is apparently part of the EU now, hopefully Turkey will join soon for what i assume not only a common border.

      May 6, 2013 at 10:12 am | Reply
  3. JC

    This happens every day in Qatar and even much worse. Ironically, Qatar has a seat on the UN human rights committee. The Qataris (and other Arabs residing in Qatar) are notorious for destroying passports, raping their maids, shipping employees off to deserted areas of the country, transferring employees to another sponsor and not paying wages for years. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories first hand.

    May 6, 2013 at 4:41 am | Reply
    • DaLe

      sound as "mafiocracy"

      May 6, 2013 at 10:28 am | Reply
  4. Brian Smith

    This is known and common in the UAE where those local Emirates think they own people. They pretend to be Muslims when in fact they are away from being Muslims, particularly when they take advantage of people. Despite the fact that this is a rich country, over 90% percent of the Emirates are uneducated, stupid, corrupt and weird. The majority of them are even supported by their Sheiks, if they are not the stupid Sheikhs themselves.

    Shame on them and God will punish them one day. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    May 6, 2013 at 5:02 am | Reply
    • Ocompo Marcelo

      The being named "Brain Smith"
      Please stop fabrication, it is dam clear to me that you are not Brain son of Smith, Where you get 90% ?!!!! please do not sitrbute false information about UAE

      May 6, 2013 at 7:06 am | Reply
      • Brian Smith

        Who are you the so call “Ocompo Marcelo”? What kind of name is this? Also, how much do you know about the UAE? I bet you that you have no idea how corrupt the Emirates are. And if you do not know this, you must be ignorant or blind. I worked there for a number of years, and I know how they deal with low wage workers. They treat them like dirt. Go see and read, you thing!!

        May 6, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  5. JP

    CNN really seems to have multiple personalities. In one hand they do puff pieces on how dubai is wonderful, in the other they scratch the surface of human traficking. When will CNN do an in depth look at the shady side of Dubai?

    May 6, 2013 at 6:01 am | Reply
  6. Alain lumiere

    This story of Eli is very common in third-worldcountries.The action taken by the ILO is quite good. But i think, ilo should undertake a very global action, which targets to humanize and standardize rules and regulations of Labor in those various countries where labor is more about slavery, and exploitation.For instance countries like Cameroon where the guaranteed minimum wage is less than cfaf 30,000, how people can afford with such of insulting and insufficient GMW?
    It is just unlivable.

    May 6, 2013 at 8:15 am | Reply
    • DaLe

      Slavery and exploitation? Such as in Afghanistan where government officials and westerners "work" for horrendous sums, and the "common man" happened e.g. to be tortured to death for the heck of it? Doesn't really sounds as a better example really...

      May 6, 2013 at 10:22 am | Reply
  7. Raj

    Most of the gulf countries are still stuck in 16th century – slavery, albeit in modern form, is allowed where your employer can keep your passport and not give it to you. These people have not grown up – no wonder why all of terrorism starts from this region – not only in terrorism acts but also in terrorism ideology.

    May 6, 2013 at 8:23 am | Reply
  8. adam

    To ocompo marcelo,i hope you been UAE before,they do like what brian smith say..they rich but their wife was fat and ugly,so they raped the workers and threaten their life..the goverment corrupt,take bribes from the rich people..

    May 6, 2013 at 8:46 am | Reply
  9. DaLe

    i heard Dubai is actually part of hell...

    May 6, 2013 at 10:01 am | Reply
  10. DaLe

    So, European Union and Iran, Iraq, and Syria are direct neighbours now? How awesome is that?

    May 6, 2013 at 10:14 am | Reply
  11. Mark Hunter

    This is horrible, I want to do something about this! How can I support this ILO?

    May 6, 2013 at 10:48 am | Reply
  12. DaLe

    In news today: G.W.Bush went into Iraq homesick and looking for the canyon.
    en. wikipedia. org/wiki/File:Canyon,_north_eastern_Kurdistan.jpg

    Luckily for Italy, G.W.Bush didn't know in which country that canyon was.

    May 6, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
  13. DaLe

    Meanwhile, in other news, South Africa plans a strike against an Isreali military research facility, and Washington looks into ways of how to more effectivly bomb girls into brain deadness so they can take their organs.

    Yeah folks... need to make a living too and that ideally without contributing to harm, so... taking bets: Israel v. Syria – you can bet on various possible outcomes, from peace to mutual nuclear anhilation.

    May 6, 2013 at 11:33 am | Reply
  14. Tutuvabene

    Italy, Iraq, the spelling is just a little different. What's the big deal?

    May 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  15. Francois

    This happen in almost all Arabic countries! From Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, Mauritania etc.
    We are in the 21st Century, they have to evolve!

    May 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  16. Don Canard

    Any chance for the US or Dubai governments to arrange for the labor company to be beaten with boards ?

    May 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  17. Ferhat Balkan

    No big surprise here. Human trafficking is a global problem, not limited to the Middle East or Asia. Actually, human trafficking is predominantly common in places such as Eastern Europe.

    May 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  18. Luís Henrique Gonçalves

    It's just unbearable, we have seen news in Brazil, through novels by Media, about human traffick among Countries. We have learned to avoid any company, if is there a chance to work outside. All docs must be checked, everything must be cleared by Official Bureau. And my advice is; be awise about services and kind of the job outside. Take a trustful feedback, from where you mind to come live and work. "Be careful". Your friend!

    May 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  19. amar

    Most of the law enforcement agencies know the traffickers and the wrong doers. So why are they lenient when the consequences are ought to be bad and worse at times. It's pathetic. The human traffickers should be hanged right there in front of the public.

    May 7, 2013 at 3:10 am | Reply
  20. khalid

    Three women who went missing for 10 years in separate cases have been found together in the city of Cleveland, police say. A 52-year-old man and his 2 brothers are arrested

    May 7, 2013 at 9:33 am | Reply
  21. Hijazi

    Dubai companies do not consider Asian women as humans...they treat them as tools for joy and money, nothing else. The fact that these bidwen oil rich nomads can break every human value just because they have money is disgusting.

    May 10, 2013 at 5:42 am | Reply
  22. Apul M'Deek-Aoud

    They're just wi'men, why does anyone care?

    May 31, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Reply
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    Best Article Ever!! I found the best website to sell cars in UAE. its really amazing I just added my car and people started calling me right after 2 hours. its

    October 2, 2013 at 3:25 am | Reply
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    January 18, 2014 at 2:02 am | Reply
  25. Lilac

    What are you as CNN wait g to really speak up of the reality of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, My friend just arrived to AD airport and saw a policeman beating a Pakistani guy right in the entrance of airport just because he was parked in the wrong side.
    I'm happy I'm not there anymore, is a the land of the lies, sadly nobody does anything.

    August 21, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Reply
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