Saudi woman convicted of murdering Bangladeshi maid in rare verdict

by Naimul Karim | @naimonthefield | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 15 February 2021 14:17 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A Saudi woman takes a photograph with her phone while her maid stands behind her, along Jeddah's corniche, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Image Caption and Rights Information

Abiron Begum, 40, was killed some two years after she went to the Gulf state in search of better paid work

By Naimul Karim

DHAKA, Feb 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Saudi woman has been convicted of murdering her Bangladeshi maid by a criminal court in Saudi Arabia, in a ruling rights groups in the South Asian nation said was a rare example of an employer being found guilty of abusing a migrant worker.

Ayesha Al Jizani was sentenced on Sunday to death by the court for killing Abiron Begum in March 2019, some two years after Begum went to the Gulf state in search of better paid work, a Bangladeshi government official said.

Begum's relatives urged the Bangladeshi government to take action against the brokers who "tricked" Begum, 40, into taking the job in Saudi Arabia four years ago.

"(She) wanted to go abroad to earn more money so that she could pay for her aged parents," Ayub Ali, Begum's brother-in-law, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"They started torturing her two weeks after she left. She would call us and cry ... we begged the brokers here to bring her back, but no one listened to us."

Jizani's husband was jailed for three years for failing to help Begum access medical treatment and making her work outside the family home illegally, confirmed Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, a senior official at Bangladesh's expatriate ministry.

Jizani's son was sent to a juvenile facility for seven months, Saleheen added.

Bangladesh is one of the world's top exporters of labour and depends heavily on the remittances they send home to relatives.

Prior to the pandemic, about 700,000 Bangladeshis used to travel abroad for jobs annually, with Saudi Arabia being the top destination despite having one of the highest recruitment fees for migrant jobseekers from the South Asian nation.

Labour rights activists say the fee, which is often paid through a network of unofficial brokers, opens the door to exploitation and trafficking.

Campaigners said the Saudi court's verdict against an employer was unusual.

"I have been working in the migration field for several years and I have never heard of such a verdict," said Shakirul Islam, head of the Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program, which deals with migrant rights in Bangladesh.

Related stories:

'Invisible' migrants risk being last in line for COVID-19 vaccination

Police arrest two Bangladeshis wanted for trafficking on Interpol list

Twice trafficked? COVID-19 fuels fears for survivors in Bangladesh

(Reporting by Naimul Karim @Naimonthefield; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.