Saudi woman sentenced to death over Bangladeshi domestic worker's killing

Saudi woman sentenced to death over Bangladeshi domestic worker's killing
The woman's husband and son also received jail sentences over the killing of Abiron Begum Ansar.
3 min read
16 February, 2021
Bangladeshi migrant workers frequently face abuse in Saudi Arabia [Getty]
A Riyadh court sentenced a Saudi woman to death on Sunday over the killing of a Bangladeshi domestic worker.

The verdict is a rare acknowledgement of the abuse of migrant workers in the kingdom.

The Riyadh Criminal Court found Ayesha al-Jazani guilty of the murder of Abiron Begum Ansar.

Ansar, 40, was beaten to death by her employers in 2019.

The Bangladeshi maid was "unrecognisable" when her body was repatriated some seven months later, her family said.

The Ansar family had requested Saudi authorities hand down a death sentence for the murder, Middle East Eye reported.

The kingdom's Qisas - or "an eye for an eye" - law allows relatives of murder victims to request compensation or the death penalty.

Jazani's husband and son also received sentences over the crime.

Her husband, Bassem Salem, was sentenced to 38 months in prison and a 50,000 riyal ($13,331) fine after being found guilty of tampering with the crime scene and failing to provide Ansar with medical care.

Her son, Walid Bassem Salem, was sentenced to seven months in a juvenile detention centre.

Ansar arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2017, one of hundreds and thousands of Bangladeshi nationals who have traveled to the kingdom for work.
Read more: Bangladeshi women sexually and physically abused by Saudi employers

The journey has been deadly for many, with at least 200 workers from the South Asian country dying in Saudi Arabia within the past five years.

Ansar had complained of routine abuse by her employers, her family said.

She testified that her employer had poured hot water on her and forced her face into a metal grill.

The controversial kafala, (or sponsorship) system governs the life of migrant labourers in most of the Gulf. Under the system, foreign workers are tied to one employer who controls their ability to exit the country or change jobs.

The system has been much criticised by human rights groups who say it provides ample room for abuse and exploitation.

After years of pressure, Saudi Arabia said in November it would reform some aspects of the system.

Riyadh said the reforms will allow foreign workers the right to change jobs by transferring their sponsorship from one employer to another, and leave and re-enter the country and secure final exit visas without the consent of their employer.

However, the kingdom did not specify whether employers can report workers for absconding. If an employer reports a worker for absconding or is able to cancel a worker's visa before that person can request a transfer of employment, they can become undocumented in the country and then liable to arrest and deportation

"This is why a full abolition (of kafala) is necessary. Partial reforms like removing the need for employer consent to change employers and leave the country are significant, but workers can become trapped in other ways when such elements remain," said Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected