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 1999
Death sentence: Tuti Tursilawati (left) and Satinah Ahmad (bottom right) are awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia
Executed: 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
Wealth: Migrants are attracted to Saudi Arabia, including its capital Riyadh, by the job prospectsHer 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]]>