Indonesian president condemns Saudi torture of maid

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Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has demanded justice for the “extraordinary torture” of an Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia.

Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa, 23, is in a stable condition in hospital.

Her injuries include gashes to her face and cuts to her lips, allegedly inflicted by her employers using scissors. She was also burned with an iron, officials say.

Mr Yudhoyono said he would send a team to Saudi Arabia to investigate.

The young woman went to Saudi Arabia four months ago to look for work.

A doctor at a hospital in Medina where she is being treated told the Saudi Gazette that Sumiati was unconscious when admitted and “was wounded from head to toe”.

The Saudi Gazette reported that she had had skin cut from her head and would need plastic surgery.
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Analysis
Emily Buchanan BBC world affairs correspondent

Several countries across the Middle East and Asia host millions of migrant domestic workers, ranging from 196,000 in Singapore to approximately 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia.

Whether or not they are well treated is a matter of luck rather than legislation.

Employers have huge control over them and the workers have few rights. Most have their passports taken away.

It is hard to document their treatment as they are “hidden” in people’s homes, but abuse is systemic according to Human Rights Watch.

Traditionally, the Philippines has been a stronger advocate for its workers than the other “sender” countries, but the protest by the Indonesian president is unusually high-level – especially as it occurred during the Muslim Eid celebrations.

There has been growing tension between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia over rising fees charged by private Indonesian recruiting agencies. Saudi Arabia was even considering banning Indonesian domestic workers.

“I want to convey the very shocking news about what happened to an Indonesian in Saudi Arabia,” Mr Yudhoyono told a cabinet meeting.

“I have instructed the foreign minister to handle it seriously. Sumiati was subjected to extraordinary torture. I want justice to be upheld. I want all-out diplomacy,” he said.

An official at the Indonesian embassy in Saudi Arabia told the BBC Indonesian service the incident had been reported to the Saudi police but a response had not yet been received.

“We reported to the local police, seeking justice. The person responsible for these acts should be sued, arrested and punished,” said Didi Wahyudi.
Harsh conditions

On Monday the Indonesian government summoned the Saudi ambassador.

“We conveyed our stand and condemned what happened,” said Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

“The Saudi government also condemned it and considered the action to be inappropriate and a violation of humanity. Together, we’ll ensure that the party responsible is punished.”

Rights organisations say many foreign domestic maids in Saudi Arabia work in harsh circumstances and often suffer abuse from their employers.

The Saudi Labour Ministry has in the past acknowledged some problems, but the government also says foreign workers’ rights are protected under Islamic law.
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This post was submitted by Chinmaya Nayak.

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