SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Continuing appeal on behalf of Rizana Nafeek 

We are forwarding two articles which appeared in the Arab News.Com relating to Rizana Nafeek who is facing the death sentence in Saudi Arabia. The first article is from a prominent citizen of Saudi Arabia who makes an appeal for clemency based on a compassionate humanist perspective. The second is from a Sri Lankan presenting the case from a Sri Lankan perspective. Both point to the problems of justice and the need for dealing with the issue based on an understanding of the problems involved.


Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times also reported that Prince Charles the United Kingdom is also likely to write to the royalty in Saudi Arabia seeking clemency.

The people of Rizana’s home village offered prayers at the mosque and appealed to Allah the Almighty begging for mercy.

We express our appreciation to all and urge more persons to appeal to His Royal Highness the King of Saudi Arabia and the family of the deceased infant appealing for their understanding and to exercise their power of pardon.

We wish to share with you the following article from ARAB NEWS, written by ABDULATEEF AL-MULHIM and SAFRA RAHUMAN respectively.

Asian Human Rights Commission

Hong Kong



An article from Arab News forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission


Nafeek, the Sri Lankan maid, I never met

When I first heard of the death of a Saudi infant at the hands of a Sri Lankan maid named Rizana Nafeek about four years ago, I looked at the word “child abuse” and what it meant.

I found out that “child abuse” could come in any form and shape.

A child could be abused by a maid, a stranger or a family member.

I felt so sorry for the parents of the infant. And no matter how sorry I was and still am, there is no way that I could fathom their anger and grief. I hope they get over it. I write not as a Saudi siding with a Saudi but as a human being feeling terrible at the loss of an innocent infant. And I do pray to Allah to give them comfort and the infant in heaven.

Later on the tragedy became worse and the court found out that this poor Sri Lankan maid had to put an earlier birth date in her passport just to be able to travel and make whatever little money she could make to support her family. I cannot imagine how desperate she was to do something like this, but poverty can make you do anything.
Of course, I do not know the details of the circumstances in which all this happened or the whole story.

The Sri Lankan maid had spent a very short time in the Kingdom before the death of the infant and because of her young age, I am sure she had no experience whatsoever of how to behave in a Saudi society or feed an infant. It takes a long time to be adjusted to a life in a different country and with a different family. I tasted homesickness when I was going to schools in the US even though I was living in the best places and I know this because at that time I did have two Indonesian maids, though my family never called them maids. We considered them part of the family. And when they first came we gave them time to adjust and to overcome culture shocks and to get over the homesickness.

When my wife and the two Indonesian ladies felt comfortable with each other and all parties knew how to communicate, then we gave them some responsibilities in the house. As for taking care of infants, it is a totally different story. Raising infants, children and teenagers is not a part-time job. It is a full-time job where you should be available at all hours of the day.
It is very important that the parents not only love their children, but enjoy being with them and enjoy raising them.


Looking at this heart-breaking case with questions about the age of the young maid and the very short time during which all this happened, I would like, as a very humble Saudi, to beg Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to give pardon to this very young and naive girl from Sri Lanka. Let her be free and return home to be reunited with her family.

I would also ask the parents of the dead infant to forgive this poor young girl of whatever wrong she did. I really do express the deepest and sincere sympathy to you. I pray to Allah to give you comfort and reward you with heaven.
As for the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), it is very important to be more responsible in choosing people to work abroad. They should send the right people. They should also ensure that the workers selected possess duly authenticated documents to vouch for their personal details such as age and experience.

— Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, commodore (retired), Royal Saudi Navy, is based in Alkhobar. Al-Mulhim can be reached at:

The original article can be found here:

The sad plight of a housemaid


This is regarding your front-page news item (Oct. 25) about the Sri Lanka housemaid Rizana Nafeek.

It’s a shame that the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh did nothing to help this wretched soul. She has been sitting in one of the jail cells for three years and now she has been told that the Supreme Court in Riyadh has endorsed the death sentence given to her for murdering a Saudi infant in 2005.

It is with many hopes that these poor women board the flight to the Middle East, leaving behind kith and kin, sometimes even little toddlers. Some get lucky, some get nails inched into them, some are left bruised and battered and some have acid poured into them by jealous “mamas” if the maid happens to be young and good-looking. I met a badly disfigured maid on a flight, and when inquired told her pitiful tale. Most of them are hardworking, and there’s no one to speak on their behalf, embassy or no embassy.

I was in the embassy premises myself one day to hear desperate calls from maids from different homes. They were begging for the embassy’s help to get away, only to be told by the officials to go to the police. Now how will these poor women who in the first place don’t speak Arabic get into a cab and ask the driver to take them to the police station? This is assuming that they are able to leave the house undetected. There are instances when the police, after a patient hearing, call the “baba” and hand them back to be subjected to the fate they want to escape from.

I’m glad the AHRC is involved in Nafeek’s case. I hope Executive Director Basil Fernando will be able to appeal against this sentence on her behalf. Ironically it is noted that she “confessed” to killing the child. But the translator at the time was a non-Sri Lankan, who hardly spoke her tongue, and thus out of sheer fear she confessed to whatever was written in the paper and signed her name. This can’t be considered a willing confession. The fact that her age was forged and she was six years younger than was written on her travel document should speak volumes for the poverty that forced her parents to let her seek employment through a recruiting agency who’d do anything for a quick buck.

Another point needs to be clarified: How are these women who come to work as housemaids end up doing just about anything — chief cook, bottle washer, doing laundry, caretaker for the elderly in the home and nanny. They don’t have off days. They have long hours of work that means less sleep and less rest. Worse still, sometimes they are deprived of their hard-earned wages as well.

In the West the word “au pair” has a different meaning, which sets about freedom and many liberties for the one employed in such a capacity. In fact, the terms and conditions they demand are met categorically. The Al-Othaibi household employed Nafeek as a housemaid. They paid the agency fee to acquire the services of a maid to do just that. And then to ask the maid to be a nanny to an infant was itself a crime. I would never entrust a four-month-old infant to just any maid in the house. In Saudi Arabia it is a common practice for the lady of the house to entrust just about anything to a maid, from household chores to the care of infants. And when the tables turn and the maid is found wanting all hell breaks loose. I have witnessed maids carrying babies, while the ladies shop. Sometimes the shopping spree goes on for hours on end. Are these women trained for such a task? No wonder some rebel and when they do, they invite the wrath of the abusive “mama”.

Enough is enough. Let us stop condemning our poor helpless women to a life of abuse and torture in foreign lands. Let us give our rural women more dignity and find for them other forms of employment, even if it doesn’t pay well.

Look at India for instance. It is the second largest populated country in the world, yet one does not see its women degraded in this manner and subjected to so much brutality. Their women stay put, making ends meet in their own land. And when they do venture out for employment abroad it is mostly in a professional capacity — in offices and hospitals and not in kitchens and bathrooms.

I hope justice prevails and clemency will be granted to Nafeek. For a few dollars she has already lost her youth and peace of mind.

This article originally published by the Arab News, which can be read at:


Please see following Urgent Appeals: AHRC-UAU-042-2010AHRC-UAU-041-2010UA-207-2007UP-097-2007UP-093-2007; Statements STM-003-2009 and STM-258-2008; and Press Release: PL-023-2007 issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission regarding this matter.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Document Type : Forwarded Article
Document ID : AHRC-FAT-057-2010
Countries : Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka,
Campaigns : Save Rizana Nafeek
Issues : Death penalty,