by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait — Law enforcement officials in Kuwait are investigating a video in which a woman films her Ethiopian maid falling from a window without making any attempt to help her.
It is believed that the maid was attempting to commit suicide at the time she climbed out the window. The twelve-second video, which surfaced online, showed the Ethiopian maid hanging from the window of a seven-story building in the Sabah al-Salem district of Kuwait City. The recording depicts the maid gripping the window with only one hand. The employer simply states “Oh crazy, come back” and subsequently moves away from the window. In response, the maid repeatedly screams “hold me, hold me[!]” Despite the maid’s pleadings for help, the employer continues filming while the maid’s hand slips and she falls onto a metal roof on an adjacent one-story building. The maid, who survived the fall, was rescued by paramedics and transported to a hospital for a broken arm and other injuries such as bleeding from her nose and ears.
A news crew at the site of the incident interviewed the employer, who reportedly stated that she filmed the fall to prevent being accused of her maid’s murder if she had died. Although the reasons for the maid’s apparent suicide attempt were not revealed, media outlets alleged that she had recently resigned, and as a result, had been tortured, locked in a room and deprived of food for two days before her attempted suicide. The employer was subsequently arrested by Kuwaiti police for filming the apparent suicide instead of trying to rescue her employee.
The Kuwait Society for Human Rights issued a statement that publicly decried the employer. The statement declared that the employer acted with “no care for [the maid’s] life,” and called for an official investigation. The rights organization indicated that the employer had a duty to rescue her maid, and noted that the country’s penal code dictates a sentence of up to three months’ imprisonment for “anyone who deliberately refrain[s] from coming to the aid of a person in peril[.]”
A Kuwaiti attorney, Ms. Fawzia al-Sabah, declared that she will be filing a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office against the employer. Viewers of the video expressed outrage on social media, using the hashtag “the fall of the Ethiopian[,]” and condemning the “inhumanity” of the employer.
Human rights organizations have long been advocating for better employment conditions for domestic helpers in countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman, citing abuses, exploitations and slave-like circumstances. In a 2014 report issued by Amnesty International, migrant domestic workers were said to be “victims of a discriminatory system that denies them basic protections and leaves them open to exploitation and abuse, including forced labor and human trafficking[.]” Despite a 2015 Kuwaiti law providing domestic helpers with more rights, such as paid annual leave, a weekly day off and a twelve-hour per day work limit, protections are still weaker than those given to other professions. Employers of maids and other domestic staff are not subject to inspections of working conditions or other enforcement mechanisms. A report released by Migrant Rights indicates that 90% of the households in the country employ foreign domestic workers. The Gulf state, which has over 600,000 domestic helpers, has been plagued with complaints of abuse, mistreatment and non-payment of wages for several years.
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