A Kenyan woman is accusing her Saudi employer of throwing her out of a third floor window, breaking her legs and hands. Another maid, just rescued by relatives, said she had to live on dog food because her employers neither fed her nor allowed her out of the house.
Ms Fatma Athman, of Kisauni, Mombasa, returned to the country last week with broken limbs and stories of near-slavery in Saudi Arabia where she was employed as a maid last May. She was lucky, she said, she landed in a swimming pool and not on the pavement. Now she is dependent on others to help her even with the simplest of chores.
“I and one of my friends were asked by Saudis who visited Kenya eight months ago to go with them. We organised everything through the Kenyan embassy — our agent — and we got documents to travel to the Middle East on May 2 last year,” she said. On arrival, she said, she was discriminated against and required to work 22 hours a day.
She also says she would be subjected to a torrent of abuse for the slightest mistake. “I used to sleep for only two hours and I ate left-overs. That was really slavery,” she said in tears. Susan Wanjiku, 29, has a story of similar mistreatment. The mother of two was promised a salary of Sh16,000(215$) to work as a maid in Jeddah. “I thought I would make money and come back home when I had enough to sustain me and my children,” she said during an interview at Nation Centre at the weekend.
On arrival in Jeddah, she was taken to her new place of work and instructed to immediately start work. “I was shown 16 rooms to clean,” she said. Known as Shakala (a house help in Arabic), her work started at 3am and ended at 11pm. This was her daily routine for the three months she was in Jeddah.
“I was to be joined by my husband who had been promised a driver’s job, but I kept praying that he changes his mind,” she said. “Luckily he did. He did not have money and this helped... We could have both suffered.” Ms Alice Wakio, a school dropout from Gatanga in Kenya's Central Province, said that she lived on dog food because her employer neither fed her nor let her out of the house.
“There is no food there. They tell us to wait for them to eat first then they give us the leftovers,” said Alice. On days when there were no leftovers, she would turn to dog food. “Their children insult us. We were never let out of the house and for the three months I was there (in Jeddah), I did not see the sun. I only saw it when I landed in Nairobi. I fainted on alighting,” she said.
Both Susan and Alice were recruited by an agent they identified as Margaret, whom they said is based at the Saudi embassy in Nairobi. They were charged Sh15,000(200 $) placement fees. When the Nation called the agent, she said she had a few vacancies. “You can come now with the money,” she said. “We have few vacancies left.”
She hang up
She hang up when we asked whether she was aware that some of the maids she got jobs were stranded in Saudi Arabia. The maids said there are as many as 100 young Kenyan women living in the streets of Jeddah after being thrown out.
On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that “a number of Kenyans” were stranded in Saudi Arabia. Susan and Alice said they were rescued by relatives back home who raised their air fare. Their dreams of a well-paying job, they said, was just a mirage. “It’s bad there. Don’t be cheated,” they said of the extravagant promises of good jobs in Middle East.
Fatma claimed the children of her employer also sexually exploited her. She said she worked for five months, but was paid for only one. She was given no explanation. On the day her employer pushed her out the window, she said she was hanging clothes on the line. “I heard my employer saying ‘you are better off dead, you are better dead’”.
She plunged into the pool three floors down and was rescued by the police. After a week in hospital, she was deported. “I left Saudi Arabia without luggage, not even my clothes. What I took is the few drugs I was given at the hospital.”
Her father, Mr Athman Ali, is demanding that the Foreign Affairs ministry and the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia seek justice for his daughter. The stories of mistreatment come just days after two families revealed that their daughters were being held in Saudi deportation centres after they differed with their employers. The two, Ms Esha Noor and Fatuma Shabira, have been at the centre for seven weeks after the Kenyan embassy failed to process their documents to travel back home.
Ministry officials said about 3,000 women from Kenya are currently in Saudi Arabia. They said both the embassy in Saudi Arabia and the ministry had received complaints from Kenyan maids. “I can confirm to you that we have received such claims. We are receiving claims of unpaid wages, mistreatment and so far we have helped bring back a few,” said an officers by telephone.
The ministry’s Middle East director Ken Vikisia said the ministry was working to repatriate those being mistreated. “We have received the complaints from the two families, and we have ordered our diplomats to work on the issue,” he said. He said several people have been lured to Saudi Arabia “only to be turned into slaves when they get there.”
This is what I have to say:Ooh God help me!!!!!
The hate towards women in this particular culture is beyond pathetic! not forgetting to mention the hate towards black muslims (shakala), what do you think caused and is causing the genocide in Dafur?(Njanjawid) just this discrimination and treating women like sub human or children of a lesser God? if there is only one God then why mistreat others? why would you throw another human being out of a window? this takes me back to someone very close (a woman) left paralized because someone saw it right to throw her out of a balcony....What kind of a belief is this? the 3000 Kenyan women under slavery in Saudi Arabia their transport should be facilitated by the Kenya Government and the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Nairobi Kenya as you processed their travel document and took money from this young women!! SHAME ON YOU Kenyan Government and Saudi Arabia Embassy Especially you Margaret selling your own to slavery This story just reflects what it means to be Kenyan. Kenyans are slaves both at home and abroad, but Kenyans are in denial and will not admit to it. Kenyans are so busy tearing each other down due to tribal bais, but as the story rightly reveals slavery knows no tribe especially abroad. Kenyans wake up and smell the coffee! Do you have no pride?, we also want justice for all the girls even I speak for those forced into prostitution! The Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia should be given an ultimatum either work or close! how can you live with yourself after treating another human being like this? ONLY GOD AND THE CRY OF THE OPPRESSED WILL JUDGE YOU! as you read history you will realize that Arabs were the first known slave owners.
Parting shot: Kenyans/Africans need to wake and realise not every foreigner/humanitarian who comes to Kenya/Africa and flashes smiles and compassion(fake) have goodwill for the country/continent or the people.Abuse of Kenyans by Saudi people is well documented even by the US government and the Kenya Embassy in the US.Kenyans need to stop going to Saudi Arabia.Of course nothing will happen to the Saudis or Indian who mistreat Kenyans in their own soil. be smart we are writing a petition for the 3000 Kenyan girls and women living on the streets to be taken home immediately and every other African countries speak up check on your people...and justice be served!
Ambassador Lucy .s .Mashua President of Mashua's voice for the voiceless International