About the photographer
Rahman Roslan is a photojournalist based in Malaysia. He was shortlisted for AnthropoGraphia's 2011 Best Visual Story Teller of the Year for this photo essay about Nur.
See more of
Rahman Roslan's work>
© 2010 Rahman Roslan
Rahman Roslan, photographer
This project follows Nur, an Indonesian woman, as she returns to freedom after five years of forced servitude. Her story is related by Rahman Roslan on his website and below. Roslan is the photographer who was commissioned to document Nur's journey home.
In 2002, an agent in Indonesia offered Nur a job in Malaysia for RM400 per month. The agent offered to prepare and process all her required documents , if in exchange Nur would hand over her first four months' salary. Nur agreed, and left for Malysia without signing a contractXXX and without undergoing the training required for Indonesian migrant workers, which would have informed her of her rights. Continued below>
Nur: The Journey Home (captions were edited from the original by Rahman Roslan, who accompanied Nur back to Indonesia)
When Nur's boat landed in Malaysia in November 2002, she was picked up by an outsourcing agency in Kepong. The agency took her passport and assigned her to a family in Rawang.
This is when Nur's nightmare began. She was forced to work every day from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. as a housemaid. She was not allowed to contact her family or to move about freely, and was not paid.
Although Nur had originally agreed to work for two years and then return home. She reluctantly agreed to stay longer when her employer promised to pay her salary in full. In the fourth year, Nur tried to buy her way out, but was forced to stay when her employer threatened to report her to the police for trying to run away. In early August 2008, in desperation, Nur threatened to commit suicide if her employer did not pay her and send her back to Indonesia. Her employers finally agreed. They told her they would fly her back to Indonesia and pay her RM1,000. Nur was devastated. She expected much more: five years at RM400/month would have been RM19,200. But she decided she had no choice but to accept. She had lost all contact with her family. All she wanted was to see her mother, her husband, and her daughters again, in Sukabumi, Indonesia.
What happened next to Nur was horrendous. Nur's employers apparently delivered Nur to human traffickers to send her home illegally. She and others were brought to a secluded beach and told to board a boat to Indonesiaxxxbut to catch the boat, they had to swim 100 meters out (roughly 100 yards) into international waters. Nur had never learned to swim. With three large bags, she started for the boat and was engulfed by high waves.Nur woke up on the beach, naked but covered by some banana leaves. Two men standing by said they had found her body swwept up on the shore and throught she was dead. They helped her clean up. The human traffickers were gone. So were Nur's belongings and her money. She had nothing left. The men bought Nur a bus ticket and helped her board a bus to Kuala Lumpur where she could find help. When she got to her employer's house, a sympathetic neighbor saw her and rescued her. After hearing about Nur's terrible ordeal, the neighbor sent Nur to Tenaganita, an NGO in Kuala Lampur that helps women and migrant workers in Malaysia. Tenaganita took Nur in.
For two years Tenaganita fought to get the Malaysian government to process Nur's documents and hear her case. Finally Malasia's Home Ministry Department granted Nur permission to go home to Indonesia.
Tenaganita invited photographer Rahman Roslan to accompany Nur on her journey home and to document this new chapter of her life. "I could see how her emotions were shattered and happy at the same time," Roslan reports. "Shattered due to her failure to provide a better life for her family back home after spending almost eight years abroad, but happy just to be alive and able to see her family again after what she had been through," he says. Roslan plans to continue documenting Nur's rehabilitation in Indonesia, a project he says is "ongoing."