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Mother gets herself trafficked to rescue 16-year-old daughter kidnapped by traffickers

"I did it not just for my eldest daughter. It was for many others, too," the brave mothe

Mother gets herself trafficked to rescue 16-year-old daughter kidnapped by traffickers
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Motortion

A Bangladeshi mother and her teenage daughter's shocking tale of kidnapping, human trafficking, and incredibly brave rescue efforts left Indian border officials stunned when the pair were caught trying to re-enter Bangladesh from India in June. 34-year-old Asiya is said to have willingly trafficked herself into India in an attempt to track down and rescue Marium after the 16-year-old was kidnapped by a cross-border trafficking ring. Speaking to VICE World News, the mother-of-four said: "I did it not just for my eldest daughter. It was for many others, too." 


The remarkable tale of motherly love began on January 15, when Marium received a job offer from a man who was a family acquaintance. "I thought the job would be good for me. So, when he came and said, 'Let's go,' I packed up and went with him," she said. Although the 'recruiter' had claimed the supposed job offer was in a district near the border with India, the teen realized something was horribly wrong when he handed her over to two other men who took her to the border and forced her onto a boat. "It was the middle of the night, and I started crying," she said. "But they pushed me into a boat."


As the boat took Marium further and further away from home, she somehow managed to convince a fellow passenger to lend her his cellphone. "I'm being taken to India! Save me!" the teen cried in her phone call to Asiya, along with the names of her captors, before they snatched the phone from her. A few days later, Marium ended up at a brothel in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Back in Dhaka, Asiya rushed to the police station and filed a missing person complaint. Despite being assured of an investigation, she said there was no word of her daughter even after 40 days.


The desperate mother then decided to take matters into her own hands. In February, she contacted a man whom Marium had named on the call as one of her traffickers and told him she too wanted a job abroad. He told her there was one in India. "This is exactly what I wanted," Asiya told reporters. She took out all her savings—Taka 60,000 ($703)—and left for the border. "I hid the money under a wig and covered my head with a scarf," she explained. Within a few days, Asiya found herself at a brothel in New Delhi, India.


"But my daughter wasn't there," she said. "I came to know that all girls were not taken to the same place." Although disappointed, Asiya was determined not to return home without her daughter. The tides finally turned in June when her husband called and said Marium contacted him through a client's cellphone. The young girl was in a brothel about 1,000 kilometers (800 miles) away from New Delhi. Asiya escaped the brothel in the middle of the night and with the help of Marium's client and some locals, finally reunited with her daughter in New Delhi on June 18. 


"On the night of June 18, I got my daughter back," said Asiya. "The brothel owner confessed that he bought my daughter for $3,404 from Bangladesh." Four days later, the pair — whose names have been changed for their safety — were caught trying to cross the border into Bangladesh. After hearing their incredible story, authorities kicked off efforts to capture the traffickers. Bangladesh’s special security force, the Rapid Action Battalion, arrested Mohammad Kalu, 40, Mohammad Shohag, 32, and Billal Hossain, 41, who were revealed to be running a larger trafficking ring with 25 other perpetrators for over a decade. Each victim was sold for $1,173 to $1,760.


"The traffickers keep updating their strategies and tricks to traffic vulnerable women," said Mohammad Tariqul Islam, the director of the Bangladesh chapter of Justice and Care, a global anti-slavery organization. "But some older patterns such as fake job offers, love affairs, or marriages remain constant. Traffickers take advantage of the coordination gap between Indian and Bangladeshi law enforcement and special agencies. If we join forces, and our intelligence, to track these people and their paper trail, so many lives would be saved."


At least 20,000 Bangladeshi women and children are reportedly trafficked across the mostly-porous and unfenced border with India every year. In total, the BSF has documented at least 500,000 Bangladeshi women and children — aged 12 to 30 years — who have been sold to agents in India. However, in the last 10 years, only about 2,000 trafficked women have been brought back home. Islam revealed that many slip through the cracks because most families don't go to the police out of fear or lack of awareness. "In fact, in the cases where families report their missing kin to the police, the rescue rate is up to 70 percent," he said.

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