Bangladeshi migrant workers accuse Iraqi troops of torture
Hundreds of Bangladeshi construction workers have been beaten and humiliated by soldiers in Iraq after becoming dragged into the country's sectarian conflict.
Some of the Sunni Bangladeshi workers had their beards shaved off by the mainly Shia Iraqi army after being accused of sympathising with Sunni rebels, while one of them was stripped naked, according to the men after they returned home.
"They abducted the Bangladeshi cleric from our camp mosque last Thursday, and when he was released on Saturday, you could see torture marks all over his body," Raqibul Islam told the AFP news agency.
"They burnt his beard with cigarettes and then cut it off with knife. His body was also beaten with stones... He was tortured because he is a Sunni," he added.
Mofidul Islam, another of the group of 21 workers who managed to return to Bangladesh on Tuesday, said abuses had been widespread.
"The Iraqis beat hundreds of our colleagues. They think that a beard is a sign that you are a Sunni militant so whoever has a big beard was targeted and beaten mercilessly," said Islam.
"One of the workers was made to strip naked and then beaten. They entered our camps and locked the doors and then beat the workers with rifles," he added.
The Bangladeshis were all working on construction projects in the Bismayah region, south of Baghdad, when Sunni rebels began seizing large parts of the country from the Iraqi army last month.
While their Korean employer released the workers from their contracts, Raqibul said many had been stranded as they were unable to afford to buy plane tickets home.
Officials say around 20,000 Bangladeshis are living in Iraq, although the actual number is thought to be much higher.