Doctor: Saudi Family Hammered Nails Into Sri Lankan Maid

by Dana Kennedy
AOL contributor

(August 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A 49-year-old Sri Lankan woman who worked as a maid for a large family in Saudi Arabia for five months was allegedly tortured by some of the family members hammering nails into her body, doctors said.

The woman, who flew back to Colombo, Sri Lanka, from Riyadh on Saturday night, was brought to the hospital by her concerned children Monday. X-rays showed there were 23 nails embedded in her body.

"Some of the nails were 2 inches long," Dr. Prabath Gajadeera of Kamburupitiya Base Hospital told AOL News today. "Most of the nails were embedded in her arms and legs. She didn't even realize how many were in there."

Gajadeera said the woman told doctors that the Saudi family allegedly tortured her with nails and threatened her life with knives during her employment with them.

"She didn't speak their language and they didn't understand her," Gajadeera said. "But she kept saying 'Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka' and they realized she wanted to go home. So they brought her to the airport."

Gajadeera said the woman did not say anything about the nails in her body at either the airport in Saudi Arabia when she was leaving nor when she arrived at the airport in Sri Lanka. The nails were apparently not detected by airport security devices, Gajadeera said.

She told her children about her injuries after her arrival, and they took her to the hospital, he said.

The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, who sent an envoy to the hospital to record her statement, plans to take action against the Saudi family who employed the woman and has informed the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh and the Saudi Embassy in Sri Lanka, the Daily News of Sri Lanka reported today.

"The bureau will take every action to get maximum compensation from the employer for the inhumane treatment he and his family had inflicted on the maid by inserting nails in her body," said a bureau official identified as H. Batagoda.

A Sri Lankan TV network, Newsfirst Sirasa, spoke to the woman, who showed its reporter the marks from the nails on her body. She said some of the nails had been heated prior to insertion.

The woman, identified as Ariyawathi from the town of Matara, said there were many people in the Saudi household where she worked.

"I had to work continuously since I had to do the chores of all the occupants, and when I wanted to take rest due to tiredness, they inserted the nail in my body as a punishment," she told Newsfirst.

"I had to work from dawn to dusk. I hardly slept. They beat me and threatened to kill me and hide my body." She said she flew back to Sri Lanka at her own expense.

"They were really devils with no mercy at all," she said, adding that she believes they tortured her because she did not speak their language.

"I could not understand their orders and they were angry," she said.

Gajadeera said the woman told him that the male head of the household inserted the nails and his wife helped him. He said the family's children threatened the woman with knives.

Gajadeera said the woman had some pain while walking because of the embedded nails.

"It was shocking to hear," Ayabilleke Da Silva, editor at the Sri Lanka Daily News who oversaw the story, told AOL News today. "Such tortures are not heard of in Sri Lanka. It's beyond our imagination and our belief."

Saudi Arabia hosts more than 5.5 million foreign workers, many of them from Asian countries, and there have been reports for years that some of them are systematically mistreated with scant legal recourse.

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