Saudi Execution Spotlights Domestic Workers’ Vulnerable Lives

Saudi Execution Spotlights Domestic Workers’ Vulnerable Lives

Saudi Arabia's decision to execute an Indonesian domestic worker has triggered a diplomatic row between the two nations. The maid's case highlights th

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Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute an Indonesian domestic worker has triggered a diplomatic row between the two nations. The maid’s case highlights the dangers faced by foreign workers in Saudi households.

The execution of an Indonesian domestic worker by Saudi authorities this week without even informing her family and consular staff drew strong condemnation from Indonesian officials.

Tuti Tursilawati was executed on Monday in the city of Thaif, Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry announced, seven years after she was sentenced to death in connection with a murder.

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News agencies Reuters and AFP reported that Tursilawati was found guilty of killing her employer in June 2011. Indonesian advocacy group Migrant Care was quoted as saying in September that Tursilawati had been defending herself from being raped.

But the director for overseas citizen protection at Indonesia’s foreign ministry, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, was quoted by The Jakarta Post as saying that Tursilawati did not commit the murder in self-defense against attempted rape.

“It is true that Tuti had been harassed, but not when she committed the murder,” Iqbal said. After the incident, she ran away from her employer but was raped by nine Saudi men before the police took her into custody. All of her rapists were processed separately, the newspaper reported.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as “Jokowi,” on Wednesday criticized the Saudi decision to carry out the death penalty. He said the government had done everything it could to prevent the execution.

“We have many times [requested to be notified about executions] directly to King Salman [bin Abdulaziz Al Saud] and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir,” The Jakarta Post reported Jokowi as saying. “I have said it over and over again. Do not think that we are not taking political steps.”

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also called her Saudi counterpart to express disapproval. “Tuti’s execution was carried out without [prior notification]. I also summoned the Saudi ambassador [Usamah Muhammad Al Syuaiby] in Jakarta to meet me in Bali,” she said.

This is not the first time, however, that Indonesian citizens faced capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. In March, the Saudi authorities beheaded Indonesian national M. Zaini Misrin for murder despite Jokowi’s repeated pleas to grant clemency.

At the time, Saudi Arabia did not notify the Indonesian government beforehand about the execution.

Between 2011 and 2018, 102 Indonesians faced death row in Saudi Arabia. Three were executed, 79 were freed from the execution, and 20 are still locked in a legal process for clemency.

Observers say Indonesia would appear hypocritical if it criticized Saudi Arabia for carrying out the execution as the Southeast Asian country also has capital punishment on its books and implements it for certain crimes.

Under Jokowi, Indonesia has executed 18 death row inmates convicted of drug-related offenses, including foreigners, since 2015.

Jakarta’s protests were based on the lack of consular notification before executing Tursilawati, rather than complaining about the execution.

Wahyu Susilo, director of Migrant Care, criticized the Indonesian government’s failure to stop the execution. “Our diplomacy is weak,” he told DW. “The Saudi government has also been uncooperative when it comes to upholding human rights,” he added.


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