A delegation from New York-based Human Rights Watch is now in the Kingdom for the first time upon official invitation of the Saudi government. They are looking into abuses of human rights, the rights of domestic workers, women and the legal system in general.
According to a source they have already visited a prison in Riyadh, but would like to go back now without government minders. They are being given a hard time, but hopefully someone in the government will allow them unfettered access to prisons and other detention facilities that they would like to visit.
On Tuesday they visited the safe house run by the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh which houses runaway maids. There they met with many abused maids, including Nour Miyati who was beaten so badly by her Saudi employers that her fingers and toes had to be amputated because of gangrene. She became a local cause celebre after Arab News ran many stories on her plight. Unfortunately, her torturers were released from prison and refuse to show up in court for the ongoing trial in which they are accused of beating and chaining Miyati to a bathroom floor for several months. Miyati is now fed up waiting for justice to be meted out to her former employers. Like most abused maids, she will probably opt to return home without having seen her torturers punished or winning any monetary compensation for her suffering.
HRW said they will also be meeting runaway maids at the Philippine and Sri Lankan embassies.
I think they should also visit the deportation center in Jeddah, which is filthy and totally overcrowded. The conditions are appalling inside the center, with no air-conditioning, food literally thrown on the floor, and the constant spread of communicable diseases because of the cramped conditions. I know what I'm talking about as I personally visited the deportation center several times in 2001 when a friend of mine was deported for having overstayed his employment visa.
This visit by HRW is unprecedented in the Kingdom's history. Amnesty International is also planning their first visit to the Kingdom in the near future. I just hope that both groups will be given access to all of the people and facilities that they wish to meet/visit while they are here.
To read about HRW's work on Saudi Arabia,click here.