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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2528

"Bahrani to rough-shod over me only because I would not have sex with him" – Shahnaz Sani

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury - Reporting from Dhaka.

Shahnaz Sani, a former flight attendant of Saudia, national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia (SAA). She lost her job as she did not respond to the indecent proposal of the official of Saudia Airline company. This was the beginning of her agonies and sufferings. But, during her battle to get judgment, none of the so-called women rights activists or other extended hands of cooperation to this mother of two daughters, who deserves to be supported. Only a few days back, Shahnaz wrote a message to Weekly Blitz.

This was the time, when we came to know about her sufferings. As part of our commitment to combat crime, corruption, Islamphobia and evils in the society, we shall continue to publish items on her, till the matter gets a reasonable and respectable settlement.

Here we publish an exclusive interview of Shahnaz Sani:

Question: How did you join Saudia Airlines?

Shahnaz Sani: I sent in my application and then met the Country Manager (Bombay) personally for the job. Before that, I was an Air-Hostess with Indian Airlines based at Bombay.

Question: Did you received any training or orientation from Saudia?

Shahnaz Sani: Yes. I attended two training courses in Passenger Handling and Load Control, but that was between 1980 and 1983. After the main accused Abdul Ellah Bahrani joined and began his sexual overtures and harassment, I was not sent for a single training course.

Though I was reinstated after 15 years, I was not given any training in System Automation (Computers) and various other training courses applicable to my job position for which all others were being sent regularly from time to time. These training courses are conducted in places outside India and sometimes in Mumbai too.

Question: How would you define the working atmosphere in that airline?

Shahnaz Sani: The working atmosphere is okay, but all employees were always scared and tensed of the dictates of the Saudi Bosses in fear of losing their jobs. They victimized one of my colleagues because she supported me in my case. However, the top bosses of Saudia Arabian Airlines at Jeddah are quite just.

Question: Please tell us your best and worst experience while working in Saudia.

Shahnaz Sani: The best experience was when I received commendation letters for my job performance. And the worst was after Bahrani joined and began the harassment and finally terminated me on false grounds.

Question: How would you define the difference in working atmosphere between Indian Airlines and Saudia?

Shahnaz Sani: The Indian Bosses are not as brazen as these Saudi nationals. The Indian Bosses never persist and become obsessed at such issues regarding sex and making sexual overtures at the female employees. Therefore Indian Airlines working atmosphere was much more comfortable than Saudia. In Saudia, one has to be on guard all the time.

Question: Please describe in detail the sad incident that took place to you in the Saudia?

Shahnaz Sani: Abdul Ellah Bahrani took charge as Station Manager, of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Bombay (India), in January 1983. Although, he was a family man, he sexually harassed me 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.

Mr. Abdul Ellah Bahrani, made sexual overtures to me to come out with him for lunches and dinners and he went on to the extent of making indecent, vulgar, and personal remarks against me and my sex i.e. my feminity.

In one instance, for example, around end of 1983, Bahrani asked me point-blank as to what was the method used by my husband and me for family planning. I protested and told him that I was not interested in any personal dealings with him which were opposed to my moral values.

Bahrani struck back with malice. I was due for a promotion of Lead Customer Agent, but he denied this to me and the promotion was given, instead, to my junior colleague by him.

He began harassing and traumatizing me in my day-to-day working by issuing unjust Memos so that I would submit to his dictates and immoral desires and requests. The other employees in the office were aware of Bahrani’s so blatantly sexually harassing me and oppressing me when I refused his advances. But they chose to remain silent spectators as they were afraid that Bahrani who was holding the powerful post of the Station Manager, would victimize them as well, if they lent me any support, whatsoever.

Though, later, when my case was proceeding in the Labor Court in Mumbai, India, three of my SAA colleagues gathered courage to support the truth, two of whom had resigned from the services of SAA, but the one of them, namely, Ms. Colleen Turner was still in their service. She was heavily victimized for having supported me, the truth in my case, and was forced to retract her statements given under oath, but the Labour Court Judge in Mumbai, India, saw through the tactics of SAA and refused to acknowledge her retraction. He has recorded this in his judgment dated April 16, 1996.

When the second vacancy for the promotion of Lead Customer Service Agent arose, I made a representation to be appointed, as was my right and due, under copy to others concerned in the organization i.e. SAA. I made this representation, specifically, to counter and defy Bahrani’s blatant threats to me that he would ruin my career if I did not submit to his immoral demands, and that, he said, everything was based on the “give and take” principle.

Under normal circumstances, I would not have made such a representation. In fact, at one stage, I even refused a promotion, which is on record. But my upbringing and strict adherence to Islamic principles would not permit me to allow Bahrani to rough-shod over me only because I would not have sex with him. Although, I had made it very clear to Bahrani that his indecent proposals that I have a sexual relationship with him, even though I was a married woman with two daughters and he too was a married man with children and a family, thoroughly disgusted me and was sinfully immoral, he had the audacity to telephone me at my residence at around midnight immediately after he received my representation (on September 13, 1984) and told me to come to his residence right away “to discuss the promotion issue”. More poignantly, he said he was alone and that he would send his car and driver to fetch me ! As the inferences, suggestions and blatant immoral advances of Mr. Bahrani were extremely offensive, I expressed my indignation.

Question: Did you complaint to the higher authorities?

Shahnaz Sani: Yes. I reported this matter to the then Country Manager, the Late Mr. Khalid Al Juryyed, who assured me that suitable action would be initiated against Mr. Abdul Ellah Bahrani.

Question: How did the higher authorities react?

Shahnaz Sani: However, the Late Mr. Khalid Al Juryyed, the then Country Manager, also warned me not to make the issue official by giving it in writing as it would harm my job and reputation, as well as the prestige of the Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA). However, I met Mr. Hisham Al-Bassam, SAA’s Executive Vice-President, Marketing at Jeddah on August 17, 1985 who advised me to resume my duties and sent a telex to Bombay on the same date. But by a predated letter of July 24, 1985, Bahrani terminated my services. All this was proved in the Courts.

Question: What was the response from the Royal Palace of Saudi Arabia on your complaint?

Shahnaz Sani: Earlier I had petitioned His Royal Majesty, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, by my letter of April 21, 2001 who was then Dy. Primier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Minister for Defence, Aviation and Inspector General.

I was heartened when His Majesty acted promptly and took the pains and time to make note of my difficulties. I received a letter dated June 26, 2001 from Mr. Saad Mogaddam, then Manager (India) for SAA informing me that my representation and complaint had been forwarded to him. Unfortunately, for me Mr. Mogaddam, was among my detractors and no further action was taken to redress my grievances, despite His Royal Majesty taking so much efforts. I have sent a copy of my petition to the Shariah Council to His Royal Majesty on April 21, 2006.

Question: Did you see the Saudi Embassy in India with your complaint. What did they say?

Shahnaz Sani: I have sent a copy of my complaint to the Shariah Council through my lawyer, Mr. Amit Kumar Bhowmik, along with his covering letter on my behalf, dated April 27, 2006. They are yet to revert to me or to him.

Question: If you are not accorded justice by the Saudi authorities, what would you do next?

Shahnaz Sani: The Shariah Council is concerned with moral issues as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. I am confident that justice will be done in this aspect. In any event, the Bombay High Court is separately seized with various petitions which are not of any concern vis-à-vis my petition which has been made to the Shariah Council. Those will be followed up separately.

Question: Did you get any attention from International community, especially those women rights activists on your case?

Shahnaz Sani: No.

Question: Did you face any adversity within your family when they came to know about this matter?

Shahnaz Sani: I am a divorcee. I have two daughters, aged 27 and 24 respectively, who have been very supportive. My siblings have also lent me their unstinted support.

Question: Did you inform the Indian media on this issue. How did they react?

Shahnaz Sani: In 1999, when the Bombay High Court had passed strictures against Saudi Arabian Airlines and reinstated me, the Indian media had picked up this issue.

Question: How did your community and society react to this case?

Shahnaz Sani: They have reacted very positively. This is an uphill battle. I am struggling against huge odds. It is truly a David versus Goliath fight! I need all the support I can muster.

Question: Do you see anyone in Saudia who could accord justice to you?

Shahnaz Sani: I had met some of the top officials in Jeddah earlier in time. But, I understand that the Director General and other senior most executives may have been in the dark of the actual happenings.

- Asian Tribune -

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