Springtime Suicide & Abuse

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Mar 31 2012

Earlier this month, Alem’s story vividly illustrated the undeniable link between suicide and abuse. The Ethiopian domestic worker was beaten savagely the middle of a crowded Lebanese street, later committing suicide in a government hospital. Thanks to video that documented her abuse, her story quickly garnered attention worldwide. Most reports accurately placed Alem’s fate against the backdrop of chronic domestic worker mistreatment throughout the Middle East.

Our goal is to bring this backdrop to the forefront; though local media outlets tend to provide few details regarding registered cases of abuse and suicide, a straightforward monthly enumeration of cases can convey the profound condition of domestic workers.

In the UAE, an Ethiopian maid jumped from a 21st floor building.

Two days later, another Ethiopian maid in Saudi Arabia hung herself in her bedroom. This week, another Ethiopian maid hung herself in Kuwait.

Earlier this month, a maid in Kuwait attempted to commit suicide by stabbing herself in the chest at her sponsor’s house.

Official Kuwaiti government statistics recently verified the disproportionately higher rate of domestic worker suicides over any other group in Kuwait. An article in the Kuwaiti Times cites a Kuwaiti psychiatrist who directly designates physical, sexual, and mental abuse as the primary motive behind these excessive rates. Such mistreatment is evident in the following unnerving headlines, all of which took place in March:

Indian Maid Beaten On Face With Stapler By Her Sponsor (Kuwait)

Filipina maid seeks help to leave hospital, Kuwait

Kusuma Nandina, Sri Lankan Maid, Worked 17 Years Without Pay In Saudi Arabia

Men get jail for forcing maid into prostitution (UAE)

The frequency of suicide and abuse are perhaps the most illustrative, concrete measures of change in the quality of domestic worker life. Unfortunately, the same concerns delineated in this article written nearly two years ago still remain largely unaddressed.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East