START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
1,772,316 people care about Human Rights

Sri Lankan Maid To Be Beheaded in Saudi Arabia

Sri Lankan Maid To Be Beheaded in Saudi Arabia

In 2005, a seventeen-year-old girl traveled to an unfamiliar country thousands of miles away from her tiny village, hoping to earn enough as a maid to pay for an education for her three younger siblings. Five years later she’s in jail, waiting to be executed for a crime she may not have committed.

Last week, I wrote about three women working as maids in Saudi Arabia who were allegedly tortured by their employers. I was planning to include a short description of this case, but decided that while it’s related it reflects a different aspect of injustice toward foreign domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

Near the end of my post, I cited a 2004 Human Rights Watch report stating that there was “pervasive abuse” of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia and “appalling flaws in the kingdom’s criminal justice system as a whole.” They reported that, among other injustices, “foreigners detained in Saudi Arabia have been denied consular visits and forced to sign confessions they could not read.”

This is one of those unjust cases. In 2005 Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan girl, came to Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid. Her parents told BBC News she believed she would be cleaning, not caring for a baby, and that she had no childcare experience. After just one month, a four-month-old infant died in her arms — his parents accused her of strangling him, and she said he choked while she bottle-fed him and that she frantically tried to revive him but could not. She was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. At the end of October, her conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Saudi Supreme Court. According to Amnesty International, her death sentence must be ratified by the king of Saudi Arabia, and then she can be executed at any time.

Capital Punishment for Crime Committed As A Child
Beyond the usual objections to the death penalty, this case seems particularly unjust. Nafeek seems to have been a minor at the time the baby died — though her passport says she was 23 in 2005, according to her family and neighbors, a school register examined by the BBC, and her birth certificate, she was actually 17 in 2005. Her family says her passport was falsified by a job agent so she could travel overseas to work.

According to Amnesty International, the court did not allow any evidence concerning her age to be presented at her trial, relying solely on her (apparently) forged passport.

Saudi Arabia is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits execution for crimes committed by minors. However, the country does not keep to this standard. According to Human Rights Watch, in 2009 Saudi Arabia executed “at least three individuals for crimes they allegedly committed as children,” in addition to at least 50 more people.

Injustice in Court
There are additional injustices to Nafeek’s sentence in addition to her status as a minor. Her conviction was apparently based almost entirely on a confession that Nafeek made and then retracted, saying it was made under duress after being beaten and threatened. According to Amnesty International she had no access to lawyers before or during her first trial. (Later, the Asian Human Rights Commission retained legal representation for her.) The statements she did make may have been mistranslated — it turns out that the assigned translator may not have been able to accurately translate Tamil into Arabic. Nafeek, who speaks no Arabic, was not able to understand any of the court proceedings.

Nafeek’s parents have repeatedly begged the king of Saudi Arabia to pardon the girl, and the president of Sri Lanka has appealed for clemency. Her parents also appealed to the parents of the baby who died, as they too have the right to pardon her. So far, they have not responded and have refused to meet with Nafeek’s parents. Human rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Asian Human Rights Commission are campaigning for her life to be spared.

Take Action — Urgent

Amnesty International is urging everyone to write to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia before December 8th, asking him to pardon Nafeek and reminding him that Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They also encourage letter-writers to send copies to their ambassadors. Amnesty International has more information on their website.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission also asks everyone to write to the king, Saudi ambassadors, and the foreign ministers/secretaries of their own countries, and offers sample letters on their website.

A Safe World for Women gives addresses for the Saudi king, Saudi Minister of the Interior, the president of the Human Rights Commission, and the Saudi Arabian embassies in the United States and United Kingdom. 

For U.S. residents, you can also contact the State Department on their website here, asking them to call for King Abdullah to halt the execution.

My heart goes out to the parents of the baby who died. The death of a child is an almost unimaginably devastating loss. I hope they can find some measure of healing, though I understand that their pain will never completely fade.

At the same time, my heart is with the Nafeek family. The execution of Rizana Nafeek, a girl convicted under highly dubious conditions for a crime she committed as a child, is unjust and will only bring more agony. Without minimizing the loss of the baby’s parents, we must do everything in our power to win a pardon from King Abdullah and prevent this death sentence from being carried out.

Read more: , , , , , ,

This photo of a sword (not actually an Arabian sword, I should note), was taken from Albion Europe ApS's flickr, and reused with thanks under Creative Commons License.

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

271 comments

+ add your own
3:52AM PDT on May 6, 2014

I'm a Sri Lankan and I thought human right mission failed on that occasion.

12:34PM PST on Nov 12, 2013

Horrendous.

7:27PM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Unbelievably ...sad!

5:21PM PDT on Sep 2, 2013

FYI, Rizana was executed by beheading on January 9, 2013, but this could (and probably will) happen to other young women.
Places like Saudi Arabia want to be thought of as equal to the West, but that won’t be possible until they begin to act more civilized. Interrogation shouldn’t involve beating and threatening a young woman and giving no access to a lawyer and providing an inept translator. Rizana was judged guilty from the beginning, and nothing she said or did would ever change that. In Saudi Arabia, as in most Middle East countries, women are thought of as less than dirt. Condolences to Rizana’s family.

8:56PM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

Thoughts are with her family.

3:00PM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

Yes Teresa it was horrible that the maid was executed. Unfortunately, this petition is 3 years old - I hope you didn't write to King Abdullah, he'll be scratching his head in bewilderment

5:13AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Horrible!

2:58AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Why are you putting 8 year old stories on this site.
We are supposed to be petitioning for things to be better not raking up bad feelings.
It has happened, give us a site we can send our objections to.

5:51AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Yet another horror story from our Moslem brothers. How can they conclude that the girl killed the baby? It sounds at worst like a tragic accident for which she was unprepared. I pray she will be spared.

12:04AM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

Thanks

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK

Children

Civil Rights

Education

Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights

Politics

Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.