Four Kannadigas languish in Saudi jail

Four Kannadigas languish in Saudi jail

Four Kannadigas languish in Saudi jail

Amid the chaos and turbulence that destroyed his life after being arrested for entering the orthodox Islamic kingdom on a fake visa, Ashraf’s brutal experience in a Saudi prison in the city of Jeddah unfolds like a horror story.

Lodged in Ashraf’s cell, in which he has remained incarcerated for the past six years, are three other men from Karnataka. Mohammad Azharuddin (23) from Shimoga stepped into that cell two weeks ago and Sayed Yakub (42) who hails from Kolar a week ago. The third man to join Ashraf last Monday was Sameer Mohammad Ullal (33).

All the four are victims of a ‘kafeel’, the Saudi name for a sponsor who employs people from outside the country. Swayed by promises of highly paid jobs, the quartet entered the Islamic country, known for its unremitting punishments for violation of the law of the land, without any knowledge of the legal system. They jumped jobs and tried to make a better living only to realise that they had violated the local laws. By then, they were already in jail.

Speaking to Deccan Herald over phone from the jail cell, where the network signal was ‘weak’, Ashraf and the others cried out for help.

“We are being charged with a crime that we never committed and for no fault of ours. We came with ambitions to earn a living but now are trapped in a jail that has no room to breathe,” Ashraf said in Kannada and a smattering of Urdu. After paying Rs 1.18 lakh to the agent for the visa, Ashraf now battles to survive with hopes of returning home turning bleak every day.   

Meanwhile, Ullal, who has become so scared of his imposing walls of the prison and the heavily armed warders, said that his situation has been complicated with the ‘kafeel’ (who is a divorced woman) taking off with his passport.

“I came here to work as a ladies’ tailor. I was promised a high-paying job, but I could earn only 200 to 300 riyals. I could not work under such conditions and wanted to return home to Kollegal. But this ‘kafeel’ has dissappeared with the passport, leaving me with no option but to surrender to the Saudi authorities,” he said.

For the four helpless Kannadigas, any correspondence with the Indian embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah has yielded only negative respons.

For a jail that houses many other Indians, Ashraf alleged that the Indian embassy staff have been helping only those who can bribe the Saudi jail officials.

“The embassy officials do not even enter the jail complex. Those who are freed are sent out with a mask on their face so as to ensure that others do not have the knowledge of their existence inside,” he claimed.

Perhaps, the only ray of hope that the quartet from the Karnataka carry is the smuggled cell phone that is helping them keep in touch with their loved ones back home.

With every passing minute Ashraf and his three co-prisoners are losing hopes of returning to India which seems to have forgotten them in a Jeddah hell hole.

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