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Migrant worker condemned to stoning in Saudi

COLOMBO (UCAN): A protest led by Father Paris Jayamaha, the director of Caritas Anuradhapura in Colombo, called on the United Nations (UN) on December 3 to intervene on behalf of a Sri Lankan migrant worker, who has been condemned to death by stoning for committing adultery by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The group protested outside the UN offices in Colombo and then moved onto the Saudi embassy in the Sri Lankan capital calling on the Saudi authorities to pardon the 45-year-old Sri Lankan woman, who is a mother of three and had been working in Riyadh since 2013.

A Saudi court sentenced the domestic worker to be stoned to death for committing adultery in August. The Sri Lankan man in the alleged relationship, who is single, was sentenced to 100 lashes.

Then on December 9, Saudi authorities announced that they would reopen the case for review, which the Sri Lankan government said it will finance.

Stella Philip, from the Women and Media Collective, said of the woman, “She went to Saudi to solve the economic hardships faced by her family.”

She continued “We urge the Saudi authorities to respect human dignity.”

In 2010, Saudi Arabia beheaded Rizana Nafeek, a 25-year-old domestic worker accused of causing the death of a four-month-old infant. Nafeek was 17-years-old at the time she was contracted and had travelled to Saudi on forged papers.

Before her execution, Nafeek retracted a confession that she said was made under duress, claiming that the infant died from choking while feeding from a bottle.

Father Jayamaha, who works with migrant workers, said Caritas has organised more than 85 awareness programmes for villagers on safe migration in cooperation with the Bureau of Foreign Employment.

“We discourage those who intend to go abroad as domestic workers,” he said.

Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, who attended the demonstration in Colombo, said migrant domestic workers are vulnerable, even though they bring in the bulk of foreign revenue to the country.

Sri Lanka’s central bank reports that 279,952 of the nation’s citizens went to work in Persian Gulf countries in 2014, sending home more than US$7 billion ($54.25 billion) in remittances.

Devasiri said Sri Lankans should keep fighting for the immediate safe return of the condemned worker to her home country, pointing out that poverty-stricken women often take huge risks when working abroad.

“The government should ensure that our workers are treated and respected as human beings,” Devasiri, the head of the history department at Colombo University, said.


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