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Indonesian maid dies after abuse in Saudi Arabia, rights group says

By Kathy Quiano and Moni Basu, CNN
A protest over the torture of Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa, outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Jakarta. on Nov. 18.
A protest over the torture of Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa, outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Jakarta. on Nov. 18.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Another maid is recovering after she was severely beaten by her employer, officials say
  • Officials are demanding justice; Indonesians protest at the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta
  • Presidential spokesman: Officials haven't definitively determined how the maid died
  • Mistreatment of several migrant workers has made headlines recently
RELATED TOPICS
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- In a second report of ghastly treatment of domestic migrant workers that surfaced this week in Saudi Arabia, an Indonesian maid allegedly died after suffering abuse by her Saudi employer.

Human Rights Watch said it was informed by an Indonesian diplomat that Kikim Komalasari's body was recovered November 11 on a street in the Saudi town of Abha. The watchdog group said there were signs of physical abuse.

Another Indonesian maid was recovering in a Saudi hospital after she was severely beaten by her Saudi employer, Indonesian authorities said.

The Indonesian government demanded justice from Saudi authorities, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held closed-door meetings Friday to discuss protection of citizens working abroad.

The government is also sending a team of officials to Saudi Arabia to look into the cases of abuse.

"We have expressed our condemnation of this hideous act by her employers to the Saudi Arabian authorities," Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said of Kikim's case.

However, presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said officials have not definitively determined how the maid died.

The employer suspected in the latest attack has been taken into custody and is being questioned by Saudi police, Tene said. The Indonesian Consulate in Jeddah also sent an officer to Abha to look into the matter.

In Jakarta on Friday, Indonesians, including members of a group called Migrant Care, protested in front of the Saudi Embassy. Some called for any perpetrators to be brought to justice. One group demanded that the Indonesian government stop sending female workers to Saudi Arabia and bring back those already working there.

"In this era of globalization, we can't stop people from finding jobs overseas," Faizasyah said. "There are limitations. We will evaluate the situation."

But, Faizasyah said, halting the deployment of workers will be a last resort.

Migrant Care Executive Director Anis Hidayah criticized Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Indonesia, Abdulrahman Al-Khayyat, who called the alleged torture of an Indonesian woman publicized earlier this week "a very rare case," according to the Jakarta Post newspaper.

The woman, Sumiati binti Mustapa Salan, was improving Friday as she recuperated at a hospital in Medina, Tene said.

"A visit by her uncle from Indonesia lifted her spirits, and we're hoping for her full recovery," Tene said.

Sumiati went to work in Saudi Arabia four months ago to support her family in a small fishing village in Indonesia.

She had been tortured since the first day of her employment in a Medina household, said Didi Wahyudri, Indonesia's citizen protection consul in Saudi Arabia. A migrant rights group and Indonesian officials have said Sumiati also suffered from cuts to her face and possibly burns from an iron.

She has been hospitalized since November 6 at the King Fahd Hospital in Medina.

CNN has not able to reach Saudi officials for comment. Offices were closed because of Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

The cases of the two Indonesian women are among several involving Asian migrant workers in Middle Eastern nations that have made headlines in recent months.

Last summer, doctors removed nails that had been hammered into the body of a Sri Lankan maid, allegedly by her Saudi employers. Human Rights Watch said it has received reports that another Sri Lankan maid in Jordan was forced to swallow nails, and another maid in Kuwait said her employer also tortured her with nails.

Human rights groups have expressed alarm about the poor treatment of migrant workers, though it has been difficult to document abuses of domestic workers that take place behind closed doors in private homes.

A Human Rights Watch report earlier this year said migrant domestic workers often face isolation and forced confinement that contribute to psychological, physical and sexual violence, forced labor and trafficking.

Nisha Varia, a senior researcher for women's rights at Human Rights Watch, said the problem is compounded by the fact that Saudi labor laws do not cover migrant domestic workers and, often in such cases, justice has been slow or nonexistent.

Millions of workers from Asian countries travel to the Middle East to make money and shed lives in their homeland that are rooted in poverty.

CNN's Moni Basu and Lucia Isman contributed to this report.