Headless in Riyadh


Beheaded bodies on the ground, in China in 1905   

Have you ever wonder how it happens that news takes the weekend off?  It is rare for any major story, except sports, to break on weekends; what one does find is restatements of Friday’s news, editorials on the previous week’s events and speculation about the coming week.  Searching the Middle Eastern and European press, I could find nothing new from Cairo, nor from London or Tripoli; Syrians and Yemenis are trying to form opposition/shadow  governments modeled the media thinks on Libya, partly because almost daily some new group or country recognizes the rebels in Libya.  In the meantime another 17 people were reported killed in Syria, 10 killed in fighting in Libya, 15 in Turkey in fighting between Turkey and Kurds, 3 in Iraq from bombings and probably a few in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India;  but unless you are related to one of the dead, those are not stories, just the details of ongoing conflicts.  In England, Murdoch paid for a full page apology in the British press today, but except for that Rupert is taking the day off; commentators and analysts are not however – the Murdoch, dare we call it scandal, is an employment contract for editorial writers – it promises to offer material for months to come.

I did find a series of stories from Saudi Arabia that will not make their way into the western press and probably would only gain any attention in the Arab press on a slow news day; a day in the life of a maid in Saudi Arabia.   The Saudi News is reporting that 25,000 women are sitting in Ethiopia waiting for planes to take them to Saudi Arabia to become house-maids.  While in Saudi Arabia a former house-maid from Sri Lanka awaits her fate; she has been sentenced to death for killing her employer.  She claims it was self-defense, saying her employer was trying to rape her and it her defense she killed him.  There is a ray of hope to the story because last week an Indonesian maid was pardoned for the same crime; the pardon came because the brother of the murdered employer agreed to a pardon and because Indonesia paid a half a million dollars to his family – a principle called “blood money.”

One prisoner sentenced to death 9n Saudi Arabia did not receive a pardon.   The young man was not a maid or from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia or the Philippines – he was Saudi.  The young Saudi was sentenced to death for trying to rape a woman, taking pictures of her and then blackmailing  her.  He received a death sentence and it was carried out – he was beheaded and became the 31st person this year to lose his (or her) head.  You know, if I wanted to become a maid, Saudi Arabia would probably not be my first choice – what exactly is the upside?  It is claimed the maids are frequently not paid and turned into sex slaves and if they protest or fight back they go to jail and possible lose their heads – times must be tough in Ethiopia if that is a viable option.  But it is said that the recruiters of these women fail to tell them of the living conditions in Saudi Arabia for women, especially for non-Saudi women.

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