Sunday Leader - January 16, 2011
By Ranee Mohamed
She can neither sit, nor stand. She can neither sleep or straighten. As she squirms in pain, more painful is the memory of a torture of a lifetime that Sri Lankan housemaid Ana Ummu Fanoon (39) alleges that she underwent in the house where she was employed for eight months in Saudi Arabia .
Hamdu Thaslim of Ambana, Na-Ula, did not have a steady job. It was his work in the nearby quarry, breaking stones, that helped feed his wife and five children. Though partly disabled, with a hand and a leg giving him constant trouble, he had no alternative but to limp his way to the quarry and hammer the hard stones till they broke into smithereens.
These harsh conditions coupled with the gnawing hunger made his wife Ana Ummu Fanoon (39) seek employment in Saudi Arabia .
“We were concerned about our only daughter. Someday we had to give her in marriage and a dowry had to be found. With hardly any money to eat, finding a dowry was an impossibility,” said Thaslim, speaking to The Sunday Leader. To make the mirage of a handsome dowry come true, Ummu Fanoon took the bold step to leave her five children behind and take wing to Saudi Arabia on March 24, 2010.
“It was a brother of mind who took us to an employment agency in Kurunegala. It broke my heart to see my wife go away. Our youngest son is two years old and he did not stop crying,” recalled Thaslim.
For one month there was silence from Fanoon and a little money was sent. “In the second month there was a telephone call from her. She whispered desperately that they were ill treating her and not paying her. She said that she was not allowed to even touch the telephone. She begged me to get her back. I was desperate and went to the employment agency but the only answer I got was ‘we will see what we can do.’ Each time I got a telephone call I went to the agency. My wife told me that she was forbidden to touch the telephone,” said Thaslim.
In the first week of January, Thaslim had been surprised to find his wife standing near the front of their house. “At first I could not recognise her. Her face seemed distorted and there were blood patches below her eyes. Her eyes were red and I could see that there was blood in them,” said Thaslim who found that his wife could not walk. She had to be carried into the house where she had reportedly collapsed with exhaustion and pain.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Fanoon said that her time in Saudi was miserable and unforgettable. “They hardly gave me anything to eat. When the work was done I was locked away in a dark room. I had to eat out of the garbage can. But I had to do all the work in the house and look after the children too. The children were very naughty and uncontrollable. I was looking after the child when the child fell down. I ran out of the house and all the way to the police station in fear. However the police handed me back to the house. I underwent the most traumatic experience in my life back in the house. They asked me to keep my hands on the floor and they hit them with a pole. Then they heated spoons from the electric cooker and put them on my body. They lashed me with a belt. They said they were going to skin me alive and took the skin out of my back with repeated lashings which seemed to last forever. The skin of my whole back up to the hips was taken away. Then they hit me with a chair. This shot on the back made me lose balance and I fell down and knocked my face. Then they pulled my hair out – about three or five strands at a time,” alleged Fanoon, showing bare and knotty patches in her head.
With some of her teeth broken and missing, Fanoon could not bear the agony and could not stop herself from wailing in pain. “They did not like the moaning. The master of the house made a ticket for me and dropped me at the airport and I found my way to Sri Lanka ,” said Fanoon.
Ana Fanoon Umma was admitted to the Na-Ula Hospital on January 8 at 3.30 p.m. At 10 p.m. she was transferred to the Matale Hospital . Fanoon has made an entry at the Na-Ula Police regarding her experience.
Today she sits around her home at Nayakanatte in Ambana. Her children sit around her. “They tell her that they are hungry, but there is nothing she can do for them now,” said Thaslim sadly.
They seemed to have got their mother back, but lost her in the process. In addition to the family not having a steady income, they now have a patient at home.
Fanoon cannot cook, wash and take care of her children any longer. She sits in a corner moaning in pain – waiting for the skin in her back to grow and for the heaviness in her head to get lighter. It will take a long time for her fractures to heal, but for justice to come her way will take longer.
When The Sunday Leader telephoned the house in which Fanoon worked and asked them their side of the story as regards the allegations made by Fanoon, the master of the house listened to the allegations and said “No speak English.” When the question was repeated the answer remained the same as the line disconnected.