For H, who asked that her identity remain anonymous, her ordeal began after she took a boat to Yemen, where after two months she was able to cross into Saudi Arabia and was hired by what she told was a “nice couple” for a “decent salary.”
But that is when her horrific experience began. She continues to look down at her hands, ever moving, as she retells what she was forced to endure at the hands of her Saudi bosses.
“I don’t think the wife knew anything that was going on,” she is quick to point out. “But if she did hear my screams and did nothing, I hope she doesn’t sleep well.”
After three weeks of relative calm, H was finding life in southern Saudi Arabia comfortable and she was hoping that much of her first paycheck would be sent back to her family in Addis Ababa. Instead, no money came.
“When the fourth week came around, I was excited because I was being treated well and was doing my job I thought very good,” she continued.
But the day she asked when she would receive money, the husband, who she described as a construction manager, began grabbing her and forced her to the wall. She said she was screaming, but knew that nobody would come to her aid because the wife was out shopping and the two children were at school.
“He ripped my dress off and forced himself onto me. He raped me. This was just the beginning,” she said, tears beginning to form in her eyes.
“He would find me almost daily and rape me. He would force me to work naked in his office if nobody was home. He would tie me up and repeatedly force himself onto me over and over for hours if the wife was out of the house. I can’t imagine that I experienced this,” she added.
After four months of constant rape and sexual violence, H was able to escape late in the night after she found her door was unusually unlocked. She met up with three other Ethiopians and they fled back across the border into Yemen, where they were flown out of the country this fall as part of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) flights.
Her story is not unusual, she says, revealing that at least three other Ethiopian women were raped while working in Saudi Arabia.
“I would never wish any woman to work in Saudi Arabia, the stories I hear are horrific and I know how we are treated. We are slaves to whatever they want,” she added.
Tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants and refugees have entered Yemen since the end of July, according to a new report published by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).
The report said that some 51,000 Ethiopians have illegally crossed into Yemen after the short boat trip.
H is just one of the many Ethiopian women who attempted to have a better life outside their native country.