TKW Indonesia Dibakar, Dipaksa Makan Tinja Sendiri
January 12, 2009
Demonstrators are expected to protest outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Central Jakarta today after details emerged over the weekend of the alleged shocking abuse of an Indonesian woman during her employment as a domestic worker in Medina last year.
In an open letter to the governments of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, to be formally presented to the embassy on Jalan M.T. Haryono in Tebet, Human Rights Watch and the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, or SBMI, detail the alleged abuse of Keni binti Carda by her employers, Khalida, a police officer, and Wafa al-Khuraifi, a doctor.
“The abuse allegedly inflicted by Wafa al-Khuraifi on Keni binti Carda includes repeated burning with an iron, forced ingestion of feces, psychological abuse and application of household cleaners to open wounds,” says the letter, obtained by the Jakarta Globe. “Mrs. al-Khuraifi also poked Keni’s tongue with a knife, pried her teeth loose and forced them down her throat, beat her own children when they tried to protest and threatened Keni with a grisly death if she tried to escape.”
In addition to the beatings and other physical abuse, Keni binti Carda says her employers made her work from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. each day, physically trapped her in the house and forced her to leave Saudi Arabia before she could seek help from authorities, it says.
In October 2008, Keni alleges Wafa al-Khuraifi took her to the airport and threatened to have Saudi police imprison her if she reported the abuse. As she was wearing an abaya , which completely covered her, fellow travelers and airport officials did not observe her medical condition, the letter says.
“When she arrived in Jakarta, Indonesian officials took her directly to Sukanto Police Hospital, which has a special clinic for the numerous migrant women who return to Indonesia with injuries from abuse while working abroad,” the letter says.
Keni is currently receiving treatment for her extensive injuries. She has impaired vision in one eye, and her flesh is fused together in some places where al-Khuraifi allegedly burned her.
Jamaluddin, the coordinator for advocacy at the migrant workers’ association, said he found Keni in the hospital on Dec. 31. He was critical of the Indonesian government’s response to the alleged torture.
“This might just be the tip of the iceberg for Indonesians working in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Jamaluddin said that there were around 1.5 million Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, almost 80 percent of them women working as domestic servants.
The letter urges Saudi and Indonesian authorities to investigate the case, prosecute the abusers in accordance with international standards and provide financial compensation and appropriate support services to the victim.
The letter also elaborates long-standing concerns about migrant women’s access to the justice system and provided recommendations for key reforms.
“We recognize that both the Saudi and Indonesian governments have taken steps in recent years to begin addressing protection of migrant domestic workers, and we encourage further progress in this direction,” the letter says.
“We hope that both governments will use this opportunity, and the unacceptable abuse and mutilation of Keni binti Carda, to demonstrate that abuse of domestic workers will not be tolerated.”
The letter says that while many domestic workers enjoy satisfactory working conditions in Saudi Arabia, many others, like Keni, face a range of abuses. These include nonpayment of salaries, forced confinement by employers, excessive workloads and, in some instances, physical and sexual abuse. In such cases, migrant women face multiple barriers to seeking redress through the justice system.
“One reason is Saudi Arabia’s kafala [sponsorship] system, which ties migrant workers’ employment visas to their employers,” the letter says. “Under this system, an employer assumes responsibility for a hired migrant worker and must grant explicit permission before the worker can transfer employment or return home.”
The “kafala” system gives the employer immense control. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases where workers were unable to escape from abusive conditions because their employers denied them permission to leave the country.