In recent months, multiple reports have surfaced of poor, rural women from Bangladesh and Nepal being trafficked into Syria to work as domestic servants—and sometimes as sex slaves.

“They are innocent, uneducated women who come from the villages. They do not know anything about Syria and what is happening there,” Commander Khadaker Golam Sarowar of the Bangladeshi police told Reuters. In the past year alone, he says his unit has come across 45 different cases of women who have been beaten, tortured, or raped in Syria.

“They think they are going to Jordan or Lebanon to have a better life,” he said.

Since the implementation of the Kafala, or “sponsorship” system facilitating the movement of migrant workers from Southeast Asia and parts of Africa to work in the Middle East, thousands of women have left their homes to work in Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries with a demand for cheap labor. While many women initially sign up by choice, the high recruitment fees (often at least $3,000) give them little choice over employment options, landing them in underpaid, exploitative jobs as domestic workers—or in some cases, sex workers. They stay out of necessity to pay back their debts, and try to make the experience a profitable one.

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