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Indonesia Protests Saudi Arabia’s Execution of Maid

Indonesia is protesting Saudi Arabia’s execution this week of one of its citizens, a domestic worker, saying the kingdom failed to notify her family or the Indonesian government beforehand.

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Daniel Victor
Jennifer Jett, New York Times

Indonesia is protesting Saudi Arabia’s execution this week of one of its citizens, a domestic worker, saying the kingdom failed to notify her family or the Indonesian government beforehand.

Tuti Tursilawati, a mother of one in her early 30s from Majalengka, Indonesia, was executed Monday, seven years after she was convicted of murdering her employer in the Saudi city of Taif. A rights group, Migrant Care, has said she was defending herself from sexual assault.

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia said Wednesday that he had contacted Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, to protest the kingdom’s actions.

During a visit by Jubeir last week to Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi lauded the Saudi government’s commitment to better protecting the Indonesians living and working there, according to The Straits Times of Singapore.

There are about 1.5 million documented and undocumented Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia, Anis Hidayah, founder of Migrant Care, said in a phone interview from Tuti’s hometown, where officials were visiting her family to offer condolences.

Hidayah said sexual abuse, long working hours, improper housing and other mistreatment were common for women like Tuti, working abroad in private homes that are difficult to monitor.

Saudi Arabia has not commented on Tuti’s execution or Indonesia’s formal protest.

Tuti was the fourth Indonesian executed in Saudi Arabia since 2015, including one, Zaini Misri, who was put to death in March. All of the executions were carried out without first notifying Indonesian officials; the two countries have no agreement requiring each other to do so. Other Indonesians in Saudi Arabia are still on death row.

Many women from Indonesia work as maids in the Middle East and various Asian countries, often leaving their families behind for the promise of steady income. But safety concerns led Indonesia to temporarily bar domestic workers from going to the Middle East from 2011 to 2013.

In 2015, it barred them from going to 21 countries, mostly in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia executed two Indonesian domestic workers in one week on murder convictions. Many Indonesians have sought work in Saudi Arabia anyway.

The two countries agreed last month to ease those restrictions, allowing a limited number of Indonesian workers to go to Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Hanif Dhakiri, the Indonesian manpower minister, said he was reviewing that decision, The Jakarta Post reported. Hidayah and other activists are urging him to cancel it.

Last year, Indonesia also revised its law on protecting overseas workers to improve training for workers before they go abroad, streamline administrative services and increase coordination among different levels of government.

Indonesian officials say they have repeatedly asked Saudi officials to notify them before executions are carried out. Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director for overseas citizen protection, said Tuti had spoken to her mother on a video call less than two weeks ago, saying she was healthy and not worried about being executed, according to The Post.

In addition to facing physical abuse, migrant workers often struggle to adjust to the cultural differences in Saudi Arabia, whose strict interpretation of Islamic law forces foreigners to abandon many of their customs. Last week, 19 Filipina workers were arrested at a Halloween party in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. They were temporarily released to the custody of the Philippine Embassy on Wednesday, according to Rappler, a Philippine news site.

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