Employer abuse and the horrific plight of many foreign maids in Saudi Arabia and other rich Gulf States

29HeadlineGraphic1-e1376936578341Three housemaids committed a suicide by hanging themselves at their employers’ houses in the Saudi capital Riyadh in less than a week. Two Ethiopian maids were found hanged by the ceiling fan at home while an Indonesian was found with her neck tied to the window. Many of the abused maids are Christians, but Muslim maids are abused as well. They keep coming to work in these countries because they are very poor.

Emirates  “Police are still investigating these separate suicide cases which took place in Riyadh in just six days,” Kabar newspaper said. Scores of Asian and African domestic workers have been reported to have committed a suicide in Saudi Arabia over the past years because of mistreatment and other factors. Other maids were involved in murdering or injuring their employers.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is the largest Arab base for foreign domestic workers, with hundreds of thousands of maids from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other countries working in the Gulf Kingdom of nearly 28 million people.

Occasionally, the abused maid gets revenge: Maid mixes employers’ food with menstrual blood

Testimonies from foreign domestic workers confirm their virtual slavery at the hands of employers in Saudi Arabia, a senior Philippine politician has said following a fact-finding mission to the kingdom.

(Photos below are of housemaids who have suffered severe physical and sexual abuse by their Saudi employers)


ALL VOICES  “A working day of 18 to 22 hours, constant threat of sexual abuse from employers the women called ‘maniacs’, and beatings, sometimes with the use of hot irons, by the wives of employers.” Rep. Walden Bello also said some Filipinos were being forced to sign a second contract upon arrival in Saudi Arabia with a salary significantly below the Philippine-government mandated minimum wage of 1,500 riyals ($400) per month, Arab News reported.


Bello said the Philippine Overseas Labour Offices (POLO) had rescued “scores” of Filipino women from oppressive employers, Arab News reported, adding that most of those in the shelters were victims of violence and sexual abuse. The lawmaker’s comments come at a time when the treatment of domestic workers is under close scrutiny in Saudi Arabia following numerous cases of alleged abuse.


In the most high-profile case, 23-year-od Indonesian Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa suffered stab wounds, burns to her scalp and broken bones at the hands of her female employer. Gruesome images of Sumiati lying in a Medina hospital bed made the front pages of newspapers and led television newscasts in Indonesia, sparking public anger and causing a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

A Saudi court last week sentenced a woman to three years in prison for stabbing, beating and burning Sumiati, according to local newspapers.  Human rights groups have long said domestic workers face physical and financial abuse in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states due to inadequate labour laws.

UK ‘Dispatches’ went under cover in Saudi Arabia to reveal the brutal reality of life for thousands of immigrant workers. A British crew follows Jessica, a young Filipino woman, who travels to Saudi Arabia as a contract worker as she moves from family to family, is raped, beaten, and forced to change her religion.