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News :: Labor
Indian workers suffered 'worst abuse' in Iraq
05 May 2004
As kitchen assistants their day started at 4:00am serving food to the Americans, but were only given leftovers and at the end of their day--at 1:00am.
Daily Times (Pakistan)
May 06, 2004

NEW DELHI Indians working with the US army in Iraq have alleged that they were being treated as slaves and were subjected to worst abuses.

Following these reports and the death of a former Indian serviceman in Baghdad, the External Affairs Ministry has ordered an inquiry into the recruitment of 1,500 former servicemen to the US army despite a government ban on its citizens doing security duty in Iraq.

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said that he had directed the Labour Ministry to investigate the matter.

An External Affairs Ministry spokesman said that the ministry had expressed concern over the disturbing reports about the conditions in which some Indian nationals were being forced to work for contractors in Iraq.

"The US embassy has been asked to provide information about the number of Indians who have been recruited in such a manner and also about the reports that they were being forced to work there against their wish,"the spokesman said, adding the Indian government had made similar contacts with the authorities in Baghdad, Amman and Kuwait.

Four Kerala natives returned home last month after their "nine-month"suffering in Iraq. Faisal, who paid Rs 70,000 to a recruiting agent in Kollam to be employed in Kuwait as a butcher, said he was grateful to God for giving him another life. "I never thought that I could see my wife and three children again,"he said.

The other three - Hameed, Shahjahan and Mansoor, all of whom from Kollam - had paid similar sums to work in Kuwait.

Several other people from Kerala were recruited to work in Kuwait but they were taken to Iraq. The government has failed to arrest local agents who supplied helpers to the US army.

Faisal, Hameed, Shahjahan and Mansoor were among 30 people who landed in Kuwait City and were driven to Iraq by bus. They were taken to an army camp, 5 kilometres from Tikrit. Their day started at 4:00am and ended at 1:00am. As kitchen assistants, they served food to the Americans, but were only given leftovers at the end of the day. "Americans have told us that that they had paid money to their agents to employ them at the camp. I was beaten with rifle butts, once I told the kitchen in-charge that I was a devout Muslim and cannot cook pork,"said Shahjahan.

They escaped when the camp came under a heavy mortar attack. An Iraqi driver took them to Baghdad from where they travelled to Jordan and Doha and reached Bombay on April 28. They said that there were at least 70 Indians in American camps working as slaves.
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