June 23, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1962

Saudi Daily Harshly Criticizes the Treatment of Foreign Maids in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf

June 23, 2008
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 1962

The Saudi daily Arab News dedicated investigative reports to the predicament of foreign maids, predominantly from Asia, who are employed in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. Their abuses include enslavement without pay, torture, and in some cases even rape and murder.

The following are excerpts from reports published by the newspaper from late December 2007 through May 2008.

Report: Maid In Saudi Arabia Loses Fingers, Toes From Abuse

"The latest ruling in the Noor Miyati case is a renewal of the profound shock and disappointment we all felt when we heard the story the first time.

"Having been tortured by her employer and denied her wages, Noor, [an] Indonesian maid, not only has to suffer the loss of her fingers and toes due to a lack of medical attention but also the blame at first for allegedly changing her statement – although her employer initially confessed and then retracted the confession. No one criticized the employer for changing the statement; after all, the employer is Saudi and Noor isn't."[1]

Such "Barbarity Won't Be Tolerated in a Society that Prides Itself on Its Islamic Values"

"2,500 SR [the sum ruled by the court as compensation to the maid] is a slap in the woman's face, and an insult. Dare I ask why we have not heard what the employer is saying? Why don't we have more details of his and his wife's explanations? And why is this case taking so much time? […] Justice delayed was in fact justice denied. Swift justice in such cases as Miyati's calms people down, and makes it clear that that kind of barbarity will not be tolerated in a society that prides itself on its Islamic values.

"Surely Missing Fingers and Toes Are More than Evidence of Something Wrong"; "We Need to See Justice […] or We will be Sending the Most Negative Signals Possible to the Outside World"

"[…] The sponsor was found innocent due to a lack of evidence. What sort of evidence is the court looking for? Surely missing fingers and toes are more than evidence of something being wrong! To say nothing of gangrene and facial injuries!

"And what about the confession, withdrawn though it may have been? People are entitled to know the facts and the reasons behind the verdict. The information we have been given is simply not enough. What we have, it seems to me, is a severe case of human rights violations, and we need to see justice being done.

"Otherwise, we will be sending the most negative possible signals to the outside world. We are also giving encouragement to those who believe that their employees are their property and can be treated or mistreated according to whatever whim happens to strike them at the moment."[2]

Indonesian Maid in Saudi Arabia Found In Empty Lot, Tortured, Bound, Gagged, and Blindfolded

"The Prosecution and Investigation Board in Makkah is investigating [the case of] a Saudi woman who tortured her Indonesian maid and then abandoned her in an empty area in the outskirts of the holy city after having her bound, gagged, and blindfolded.

"'Ameena Ayas, 22, was found by local people bound and gagged at a vacant plot in the Kaakiah district on May 26. The Red Crescent was called and she was taken to Al-Noor Specialist Hospital for treatment. Police are investigating the case,' said Abdul Mohsen Al-Mayman, spokesman for Makkah police.

"Speaking to Arab News from her hospital bed, Ayas said she had come to the Kingdom just a few months ago. 'In the beginning, my employer behaved in a very nice manner. Everything changed a few weeks later. She would beat me for even small mistakes. I also had problems in understanding the language. I would cry for help, but no one would help me. When my miseries became intolerable, I decided to run away. But she caught me in the attempt,' Ayas said."[3]

Maid: Employer Beat Me With an Iron Rod, Burned my Arms and Back, Poured Bleach On Wounds

"She added that her employer gradually became more violent. 'At first the lady used to beat me with her hands and sticks. She then started to strike me with an iron rod. The most horrible thing she did to me was burning my upper arms and back with heated tongs and pouring Clorox over the wounds,' she said.

"Ayas said she could not work nor sleep because of severe pain, and […] her employer told her she was taking her to a doctor.

"Once inside the car, Ayas had her hands tied from behind. She was blindfolded and gagged, and abandoned in an empty plot of land.

"Dr. Hatem Al-Amri, who is treating the maid at Al-Noor Hospital, said the young woman had cuts on her head and bruises on her neck, face and back. 'She also had suffered burns on her upper arms and forearms, and lash marks on her chest in addition to some slight fractures. She's stable now,' Al-Amri said."[4]

Filipina Maid Allegedly Held Hostage by Employer, Raped

"A maid from the Philippines who was allegedly held hostage by her employer and raped by four men on May 19, 2007 in Qatif [Saudi Arabia] was sent back home following her withdrawal of the allegations. […]

"In a written statement to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, she wrote that the allegations were fabricated and mere products of her 'imagination.' […]"[5]

Filipina Maid Murdered in Kuwait

"A Filipina maid was murdered in Kuwait […] The Department of Foreign Affairs press statement said that Filipino worker Fatima Sagadan Maulana was found dead in Kabd Desert last May 16. […]

"According to the press statement, the Kuwaiti police declared that Maulana was probably murdered on May 9. Her body was found a week later and was already in a decomposing state. […]"[6]

Sri Lankan Maid Tortured by Employer's Wife

"A Sri Lankan maid, who was tortured brutally by her employer's wife, has been forcibly sent home without being paid a year's salary.

"'I was tortured severely. The sponsor's wife burned me with an iron rod, poured disinfectant and gasoline on me, and threatened to burn me alive; she also said she would cut my hair to make me ugly,' said Madhuwanthie, the 28-year-old Sri Lankan woman.

"[…] Madhuwanthie, who worked for the household for 21 months, has only received pay for the first nine months of her employment. 'Every time I asked for my salary, they would beat me and threaten to hand me over to the police on false charges […] I did not have the opportunity to contact the embassy since the telephone was out of my reach.'"[7]

Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh: Nine Cases of Runaway Maids Each Day

"[…] The Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh receives an average of nine cases of runaway maids each day.

"The mission has opened a 24-hour cell to accommodate such cases and report them to the proper authorities. The country's missions in Jeddah and Riyadh also run safe houses for such workers till problems are resolved […]."[8]

"Somawathie, 28, said she fled her employer's home, as she did not receive her salaries for more than 10 months. […] Chandra, another maid, said that she decided to run away because the family members were forcing her to work long hours without rest."[9]

Sri Lankan Woman Died of Starvation

"A diamond necklace worth 4,000 SR [$1066] and 3,500 SR [$934] in cash is part of the compensation that will be given to a Sri Lankan woman whose daughter starved to death in October 2005 while working as a maid in the Kingdom.

"[…] Vasanthi came to the Kingdom in October 2000 and died five years later from complications attributed to malnutrition, according to an autopsy. It was discovered that the maid had not received her salary for the period of her work and compensation for the unpaid labor alone would amount to 24,000 SR [$ 6,400].

"The maid's sponsor […] was arrested along with his wife shortly after the cause of death was discovered and after the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry complained to Saudi authorities.

"The husband was later released in an attempt to obtain compensation from him […]"[10]

Sri Lankan Maid Heads Home after 10 Years Of Slavery

"On the eve of her departure to Sri Lanka, Anista Marie, the housemaid who was treated like a slave in a Saudi household for eight years, thanked Arab News for bringing her case into the public domain and helping to secure her freedom to return home. […]

"Marie's case came to light when she called Arab News on Aug. 14 claiming to be working in slave-like conditions in Riyadh. Marie was able to access a phone and call Arab News with the help of a sympathetic family member.

"When she initially spoke to Arab News, Marie said she was unsure of her exact location. It took about three weeks for police to track down the location of the residency in Khansalallilah district, 12 kilometers from downtown Riyadh."[11]

She Hadn't Been Paid For Eight Years

"Marie was rescued by Saudi security authorities in cooperation with officials from the Sri Lankan Embassy. Marie had arrived in the Kingdom 10 years ago and stopped receiving her salary eight years ago. […]

"Marie's sponsor escaped court charges since the mission decided to wind up the case because of her eagerness to return home as quickly as possible. At one stage, the maid was prepared to go home without her salary dues.

"Marie is from a poverty-stricken fishing family in Chilaw, a coastal town 70 km from Colombo. The maid has four children, including two girls. Her eldest son was 10 years old when she left for Saudi Arabia. During this period, Marie lost her fisherman husband in Sri Lanka and only came to know of this two years later through a third party."[12]

Asian Maid Forced Into Prostitution, Murdered

"Police in Yanbu' […] [have questioned] a Saudi man in connection with the murder of an Asian maid, whose decapitated body was found on the side of a road in Yanbu' [Saudi Arabia] in September [2007].

"The man is said to be the maid's sponsor and, according to police, had forced the woman into prostitution. Police suspect that the woman escaped and was murdered as a punishment. Her head was then cut off to prevent police from identifying her. […]"[13]

[1] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), May 30, 2008.

[2] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), May 30, 2008.

[3] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Gagged and Blindfolded, Maid Found Abandoned in Makkah," June 2, 2008.

[4] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), June 2, 2008.

[5] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Maid Withdraws Allegations, Sent Back to Manila," May 31, 2008.

[6] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Filipino Maid Murdered in Kuwait," May 24, 2008.

[7] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Repatriated Lankan Maid Claims Torture, Nonpayment of Wages," March 3, 2008.

[8] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), March 3, 2008.

[9] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "96 Runaway Lankan Maids Repatriated," February 28, 2008.

[10] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Manpower Agency Pays Compensation for Maid’s Death," February 7, 2008.

[11] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Sri Lankan Maid Heads Home after 10 Miserable Years," January 9, 2008.

[12] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Sri Lankan Maid Heads Home after 10 Miserable Years," January 9, 2008.

[13] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), "Sponsor Arrested for Murdering Maid in Yanbu," December 27, 2008.

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