The maids on Saudi Arabia’s death row: Scores of foreign women facing execution for child abuse, witchcraft… and killing would-be rapists Human rights groups warn of the ‘deadly risks’ facing migrant workers Workers lured by wealthy families but face abuse and exploitation Migrants get little legal protection, with no access to lawyers or embassies ‘Justice system is characterised by arbitrary arrests and unfair trials’ Foreign workers are being warned of the  ‘deadly risks’ they face in Saudi Arabia, with more than 45 maids awaiting  execution despite growing anger at the country’s mistreatment of  migrants. The death row prisoners include a domestic  worker convicted of beating her employer to death when he allegedly tried to  rape her. On Wednesday, authorities in the Middle  Eastern country ignored international pleas and beheaded maid Rizana Nafeek, 24,  who was convicted of killing a baby despite protesting her innocence.

Death row: Siti Zainab has been sentenced to death for stabbing her female employer to death in 1999Death row: Siti Zainab has been sentenced to death for  stabbing her female employer to death in 1999
Sentenced to death: Tuti Tursilawati is awaiting execution for reportedly killing her employer after he tried to rape her
Beating: Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad was said to have snapped after abuse from her female employer
Death sentence: Tuti Tursilawati (left) and Satinah  Ahmad (bottom right) are awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia
Human rights groups believe  Indonesians  account for the majority of the maids on death row and that  there are Sri  Lankans, Filipinos, Indians and Ethiopians also facing  execution. Campaigners say many of Saudi Arabia’s  1.5  million migrant workers, around 375,000 of whom are Sri Lankan, are  attracted  to the country by the prospect of working for wealthy families but face  exploitation and abuse. This can range from months of hard work  without pay to physical violence, in a country where legal protections are  particularly weak, and access to  lawyers, translators and embassies is often  blocked. Human Rights Watch’s Nisha Varia told The Observer: ‘The Saudi justice system is characterised by  arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and harsh punishments. A domestic worker facing abuse or exploitation from her employer might run away and then  be  accused of theft.
Executed: Rizana Nafeek was beheaded on Wednesday despite international appeals for her releaseExecuted: Rizana Nafeek was beheaded on Wednesday  despite international appeals for her release
‘Employers may accuse domestic workers,  especially those from Indonesia, of  witchcraft. Victims of rape and sexual  assault are at risk of being  accused of adultery and fornication.’ Human rights group say 69 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year and 79 the year before, including  five  women, one of whom was beheaded for witchcraft and sorcery.


Saudi Arabia is notorious for its treatment  of domestic staff, the majority of who migrate from poverty-stricken  countries. Commentators have remarked that Saudis treat  staff as if they were part of the furniture – with stories of beatings, rape and  imprisonment all too common. In 2010, shocking photographs emerged of maid  Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa, 23, who suffered severe injuries from being  stabbed, burned and beaten. Her employer was sentenced to just three  years in jail but was later acquitted altogether, in a case that outraged human  rights groups. Speaking at the time, Wahyu Susilo of the  Indonesian advocacy group, Migrant Care, said: ‘Again and again we hear about  slavery-like conditions, torture, sexual abuse and even death. ‘But our government has chosen to ignore it.  Why? Because migrant workers generate £4.7billion in foreign exchange every
Amnesty International Saudi Arabia researcher  Dina el-Mamoun said there is  growing alarm at the number of migrant workers  being sentenced to death, with more than 120 foriegn nationals known to be on  death row. She  said migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are at great risk if they end up in the  criminal justice system and added countries should be advising their residents  of the ‘very real and deadly’ risks. Ms Mamoun said: ‘In many cases they’re  subjected to whole trials where they can’t understand the proceedings, which are  conducted solely in Arabic, and without translation. They are often not given  access to consular assistance.’ Death row prisoner Tuti  Tursilawati binti Warjuki, 27, from Indonesia, faces execution for murdering her employer in 2010  when he allegedly attempted to rape her. Her supporters say she was abused by  the man  since arriving in the country a year earlier and was denied  legal  representation for the first two months of her trial. Siti Zainab, also from Indonesia, has also  been sentenced to death after being convicted in 1999 of stabbing  her female  employer to death. She confessed to the murder but the  authorities appear to have dismissed concerns over her mental health. Prisoner Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad,  40, was  arrested in 2007 for killing her female employer. The Indonesian government is  prepared to pay some of the £1.6m blood money demanded by the woman’s family to  save her. Reports of what happened vary from  her  fighting back after being attacked to the maid having snapped after  suffering  months of abuse before being accused of stealing. The Sri Lankan government has spoken out  against the execution of house  maid Rizana Nafeek, from, Sri Lanka, after she  was beheaded in public by a sword last week. Miss Nafeek was sentenced to death in 2007  after her Saudi employer accused  her of strangling his four-month-old baby two  years earlier after a  dispute with the child’s mother.
Wealth: Migrants are attracted to Saudi Arabia, including its capital Riyadh, by the job prospectsWealth: Migrants are attracted to Saudi Arabia,  including its capital Riyadh, by the job prospects
Her family and human rights groups  repeatedly appealed to King Abdullah to pardon Miss Nafeek, who  protested her  innocence and said the baby had choked to death while  being bottle  fed. Supporters said the age on the passport she  used to enter the country in 2005 was  changed so she could get work and that  according to her birth  certificate she was just 17 when the baby  died. Miss Nafeek said her original confession was  made under duress and there  translation services were not made available to  her. Amnesty said she  had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial  interrogation or at her 2007 trial. Philip  Luther, the organisation’s Middle  East and North Africa programme  director, said before the execution: ‘It  appears that she was herself a  child at the time and there are real concerns  about the fairness of her  trial.’ Dailymail]]>


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