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Wati S.

2006 (Narrative date)

There are an estimated 61,000 people living in modern slavery in Saudi Arabia (GSI 2018). It is a source and destination country for men and women trafficked from South and South East Asia and Africa. People voluntarily migrate to the country to work in a variety of sectors including construction and domestic service; many of these workers are vulnerable to forced labour. Traffickers and brokers often illegally recruit migrants to work in Saudi Arabia and subsequently forced them into domestic servitude or debt bondage. Female domestic workers are particularly at risk of trafficking due to their isolation inside private residences. Non-payment or late payment of wages remains a complaint from foreign workers, while employer's withholding of worker's passports remains a significant problem. Trafficking perpetrators include businesses of all sizes, private families, recruitment companies in both Saudi Arabia and labor-sending countries and organized criminal elements.

Wati S., a19-year-old Indonesia domestic worker at the time of the interview, travelled to Saudi Arabia for work. She was locked in the house, forced to work long hours and beaten almost every day.

I never went out, not even in the company of my employer. I love to walk around and see things, but my employer never allowed me out. They locked me in the house, the employer kept the key. I did not have a key

She beat me until my whole body burned. She beat me almost every day.... She would beat my head against the stove until it was swollen. She threw a knife at me but I dodged it. I had a big black bruise on my arm where she had beaten my arm with a cooking spoon, she beat me until the spoon broke into two pieces. This behavior began from the first week I arrived. It was the lady employer, the man was good…. She would scream, “I hope you die! I hope your family dies! I hope you become deformed!” She never paid me for 10 months. I thought if I don’t escape, I will die.

When the Pepsi was almost finished, the employer would accuse me of drinking it and cut my salary. Before they paid me [each month], they would have cut the whole salary. They deducted my salary if a fork was lost or if the iron was not hot. They accused me of breaking it…. My employer never paid me for 10 months.

I worked every day from 6 a.m. to 2 or 3 a.m. I got to rest three hours in the afternoon and at night. I never got a day off

I don’t know my employer’s phone number or address. I just called him Mr. Hassan


Narrative as told to Human Rights Watch for their report “As If I Am Not Human”:Abuses against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia. 

All credit given.