Bangladeshi Kidnap Victim Recounts Mid-East Ordeal

By Kamran Reza Chowdhury
150408-ilias-620 Kidnap victim Md. Ilias (left) sits with his father, Md. Modasser, at a stall in Basila, a Dhaka slum, April 6, 2015.

The arrest last week of a Bangladeshi national accused of running a extortion syndicate in Iran has brought back bitter memories for former migrant worker Md. Ilias.

At age 25, he paid a recruitment firm in Bangladesh U.S. $3,209 to place him in a construction job in the United Arab Emirates.

The job, it turned out, paid only U.S. $14 (1,089 taka) monthly. But after complaining to his employer, Ilias was kidnapped and whisked across the Strait of Hormuz to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, he said.

There, he was held hostage and tortured by kidnapping rings that extorted U.S. $16,070 (1.25 million taka) from his family in Bangladesh, before he finally escaped.

More than three years after his return to Bangladesh, his relatives are still struggling to pay off the loans that financed the ransom. As a result, they had to leave their home in Mehendiganj upazila, Barisal district, and move to a slum in Dhaka.

“Had I not gone abroad, we would not be in the slums,” Ilias told BenarNews.

Skulls and Bones

His ordeal began when he complained to representatives of his UAE company that the meager salary was considerably smaller than the one promised to him by the Bangladeshi recruiter.

Some Pakistani brokers drove him and other migrant workers to neighboring Oman. From there, they were transported overnight by speedboat to Bandar Abbas. At the time, Ilias and the others were unaware that they were being abducted.

When they landed in Iran, they were forced to walk for 26 hours until they reached an isolated house, where they were made to stay, he said.

“Human remains such as skulls and bones were strewn around the house. It created a sense of nausea,” Ilias recalled.

“I asked one broker who the dead people were. He replied that the dead bodies were of Bangladeshis who did not listen to them.”

During the first phase of his captivity, the kidnappers forced Ilias to call his father and demand ransom money for his release.

“They tightly pressed a hot iron rod to my body, keeping my father connected on the other end of the line,” Ilias said.

“Hearing my howling, my father had to deposit 250,000 taka (US $3,210) to a mobile money transfer account of his agent in Bangladesh,” Ilias said.

But instead of freeing him, ring members then sold him and eight others off to a Pakistani ring of traffickers, who demanded U.S. $12,860 (1 million taka) from each of them for their release.

“The Pakistani captors used to force us to urinate on an electrified steel bucket. They did not give us food and tortured almost round the clock,” Ilias said.

One night, he and nine other hostages were able to escape by removing an air-conditioner and stepping out through the hole in the wall.

Iranian police, however, arrested them soon after. Ilias returned to Bangladesh in October 2012, after spending three months in an Iranian jail.

Transnational network

Now, a portion of justice could be served to those who victimized Ilias and migrant workers like him. On March 30, authorities arrested Bangladeshi national Nannu Mia as he arrived in Dhaka after being deported from Iran.

Mia is suspected of heading a Bandar Abbas-based ring, which, over a period of six years, held more than 100 Bangladeshis captive and tortured them, according to the Daily Star newspaper.

Police are preparing to file charges against him, Raihan Uddin Khan, additional special superintendent of Bangladesh’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), told BenarNews.

Iranian police arrested Mia – who had lived in the Islamic Republic for 35 years – during a March 2014 raid on a house from which they rescued 30 Bangladeshi kidnap victims.

His arrest in Iran stemmed from a complaint filed with police in Bangladesh two months earlier by one of Mia’s alleged kidnap victims, Bangladeshi national Shafiul Islam. Islam filed the case on Jan. 11, 2014, under Bangladesh’s anti-human trafficking law.  

People convicted under the law face capital punishment or life in prison.

“Nannu and his cohorts lured Bangladeshis with [the prospect of] jobs in Greece and Italy. Once they came out of the UAE, they held the Bangladeshi nationals [for ransom],” Matiur Rahman, the CID’s special superintendent, told reporters on March 31.

Mia’s ring was linked to traffickers in Pakistan and Turkey who extorted ransom money from their victims by torturing them, CID Inspector Borhan Uddin told BenarNews.

Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of the WARBE development foundation, a Bangladeshi organization that works for the protection and welfare of migrant workers, welcomed the news of Mia’s arrest.

“He is not the only one. Many more Nannu Mias are there across the Middle East,” Haque told BenarNews.

“The government should intensify its cooperation with [foreign] governments to punish the human traffickers.”


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