Friday, September 18, 2009

Answering the cry of a Muslim woman repressed by Saudis

By: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

In February 2006, when I was working in Weekly Blitz office, I suddenly received a mail from an Indian woman named Shehnaz Sani [53], an Indian born flight attendant of Saudia [Saudi Arabian Airline], who was a victim of luster of spoilt officials of the National flag career of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She told me in a very sordid mood that, whenever she knocked the door of any Indian newspaper, the influential Saudi Arabian Airline office in New Delhi intervened with handsom advertisement offer to that newspaper, thus finally, her plea never getting published anywhere. But, in Blitz, we did! We stood for Shehnaz Sani and continued to publish her report, till she got justice. Here is the story of Shehnaz Sani, who was repressed by the Saudi men.

Since nearly two decades, Shehnaz Sani [53] has been fighting a running battle against Saudi Arabian Airlines [SAA] for justice and her rights. Shehnaz, who was earlier an air-hostess with the Indian Airlines, joined SAA on November 16, 1978. She was awarded merit certificates for her job performance. Shehnaz is married and has two daughters.

According to Shehnaz, Abdul Ellah Bahrani, Saudi national, took charge as Station Manager, SAA, Bombay [India], in January 1983. Although, he was a family man, he sexually harassed her and made lewd remarks and other such totally disgusting and provocative gestures and advances, “which are frowned upon by the strict Islamic code of conduct and, for which, the Shariah has provided for stern action by way of ‘hudood’ and also ‘Ta’azir”’. Shehnaz was 29 years old, and Bahrani around 35, at that time. Bahrani, according to her, made a habit of making indecent, vulgar, and personal remarks against her and her sex i.e. female.

In one instance, for example, according to Shehnaz, around the end of 1983, Bahrani asked her point-blank as to what was the method used by her husband and her, for family planning! Bahrani “began harassing and traumatizing her in her day-to-day working by assigning difficult tasks and issuing unjust memos so that she would submit to his dictates and immoral desires and requests. Although, Shehnaz had made it very clear to Bahrani that his indecent proposals, that she have a sexual relationship with him, even though she was a married woman with two daughters and he too was a married man with children and a family, thoroughly disgusted her and “was sinfully immoral”, he had the audacity to telephone Sani at her residence at around midnight and asked her to come to his residence right away ‘to discuss her promotion issue. More poignantly, he said he was alone!” When Shehnaz complained to her superiors about Bahrani’s sexual overtures, her services were promptly terminated! Shehnaz lodged a petition in the Labor Courts at Mumbai [India] against SAA, who, after a lengthy Trial, directed SAA to reinstate her and pay her, her back-wages. Instead of doing so, SAA petitioned the Bombay High Court - which passed strictures by its order of February 1999 against them and even saddled them with INR 10,000 [US$ 250] as costs to be paid to Shehnaz! That Shehnaz has been sexually harassed by Bahrani and traumatized by Executives of SAA stood proved in the Courts beyond a shadow of doubt. The Bombay High Court was of the firm view that “the employers cannot be asked to go in for a golden hand-shake and deny her the relief of reinstatement”. But instead of honoring the Court’s Orders, Mr. Saud J. Al-Jalak, the then Manager of SAA, Bombay, [India] by his Memo dated March 3, 1999 immediately transferred Shehnaz to Chennai [Madras] with immediate effect though there was no “transfer policy” for local appointments - knowing fully well that it would not be possible for her to adhere to such an unjust direction which reeked of vendetta, vengeance and was absolutely unwholesome in whichever way one could look at, in terms of equity.”

Shehnaz has scored many times against the powerful SAA, in a truly David versus Goliath manner, in battles fought out in the Bombay High Court, which has, time and again, given directions to them not to continue with their pogrom against her. These orders have been flaunted with disdain and contempt by the SAA and its executives concerned, “who have no respect whatsoever for the judiciary of their host country [India]”. Shehnaz has made history taking on the might of the SAA – by and securing a reinstatement order. But hers is a Pyrrhic victory! According to Shehnaz, the SAA and its executives have traumatized and harassed her and since her reinstatement they have not even paid her dues or wages for most periods “which amounts to snatching the bread from her mouth and committing larceny.”

“But my beliefs in the ‘hadiths’ of Prophet Mohammed, and the Holy Quran, not only brought me some solace but also strengthened my voice against such tyranny, which is the focal point of the Muslim religion and beliefs”, emoted Shehnaz.

At her tether’s end, Shehnaz has lodged a complaint recently on April 21, with Dr. Saleh Bin-Humaid, President & Chief Judge of the Shariah Council at Jeddah [KSA], against Abdul Ellah Bahrani, Saud H. Al-Jalak, Moshin M Algarni, Saad A. Moogaddam, Maher A Shukri, Fahaad A. Baghdadi and others, of the Saudi Arabian Airlines, which has its Head Quarters at Jeddah [KSA]. In her detailed Petition, with documents annexed to it as evidence supporting her contentions, she has extensively quoted from the Holy Quran as well as Sunnah and ‘hadith’ [traditions] of Prophet Mohammed. She has also reflected at considerable length on the Shariah, ‘hudud’ and ‘ta’azir’ crimes, as well as major Sins which are taboo in Islam, committed with impunity, by her oppressors.

Shehnaz has charged Bahrani and others named in her complaint, with having committed ‘hudud’ and ‘ta’azir’ crimes against her, including theft, slander, oppression and betrayal of trust. She has sought for Bahrani to be castrated for sexually harassing her. Bahrani’s shameful acts have stood proved in the Trial Courts and have been confirmed by the Bombay High Court. Shehnaz has also demanded that the right hands be cut off at the wrists and the left feet at the ankles, as well as 80 lashes be given to the six persons named in her complaint, who are all Muslims, citizens of KSA and executives of the Saudi Arabian Airlines. Since, Bahrani admitted to being intoxicated when he made sexual overtures to Shehnaz, which four of his own persons produced in the Court as witnesses also confirmed, Shehnaz has sought 40 additional stripes to be given to him for having committed this ‘hudud’ offence as well. “The evidence is irrefutable and largely documentary. The charges leveled have stood proved. Although, the Courts which have passed their orders against the Saudi Arabian Airlines, Bahrani and others, are not from Dar-al-Islam [abode of Islam i.e. an Islamic Country] the evidence, cannot be one in one Court and another in some other Court”, said Shehnaz, who has sent a copy of her complaint to His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. Instead of chastising the main offender, Mr. Abdul Ellah Bahrani, the SAA Executives have protected him and they must all be severally held guilty of that same offence as having colluded with him.

Shehnaz’s attorney advocate Amit Kumar Bhowmik, has also forwarded copy of her complaint to Dr. Khaled A. Ben Bakr, Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines under Shehnaz’ instructions.

But, Shehnaz Sani was never getting any justice from the Saudis. Rather those raskels in Saudi Arabia asked Shehnaz Sani to visit that country and meet some high officials of Saudi Arabian Airlines ‘in private’ to ‘get justice’.

By all means, the former flight attendant of Saudi Arabian Airlines knew tha meaning of invitation to ‘private meeting’ by the Saudis. It was nothing but another attempt of sexual exploitation, which is a regular but untold phenomenon in Saudi Arabia. So she decided to fight back.

As Blitz reports started continuing, many of the mainstream Indian television channels first also picked up her story after a long silence. There had also been several reports in the newspaper. And, finally, she got justice!

With the case of Shehnaz Sani, once again, I saw the nasty and fundamentalist faces of the Saudi men. In fact, fundamentalists are men who emulate the looks and actions of prophet of Islam. Yet, they give the Prophet and Islam a very bad name. They continue to commit all forms of crimes and evil deeds under the garb of Islamic rule or Shariah rule.

Should there be no existence of Weekly Blitz, possibly the oppressed flight attendant would have got justice, never!

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