Knee Jerk Reactions?

The Indonesian government was caught unaware when Saudi Arabia carried out the death by beheading sentence on 54-year old Ruyati binti Sapubi for murdering her employer’s wife. Accusing Saudi Arabia of lacking in international decorum, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that the Saudis “broke the norms and manners of international relations” by not informing Indonesian in advance of the beheading execution.  Meanwhile the clerics have denounced the beheading and called for a ban on sending Indonesian women to Saudi Arabia to work. And in knee jerk reactions, the Indonesian government has now decided to save Indonesians on death row in Saudi Arabia by paying blood money to the victims’ families.

About The Ruyati Binti Sapubi Case

54-year old Ruyati binti Sapubi went to Saudi Arabia to work as a maid.  But she couldn’t stand the treatment she received in her employer’s home.  One day, succumbing to the pressure, Ruyati binti Sapubi snapped, and she killed her employer’s wife, Khairiya binti Hamid Mijlid.  Ruyati binti Sapubi was arrested and charged with murder.  She was sentenced to death by beheading.

Recently the Saudis went ahead to execute the beheading sentence.  Press reports say that the Saudis dangled Ruyati binti Sapubi’s dead body from a helicopter.  The purpose of this action is to let the public see the result of the execution.

Meanwhile Ruyanti binti Sapubi’s daughter, Een Nuraini, disclosed that her mother had been abused by her employers. Een Nuraini said: “I don’t believe that my mother killed someone without a reason, it’s impossible.  She was a good person. Maybe she confessed because she was pressured. Nobody was defending her.”

Reactions From Indonesian Government

This beheading of Ruyati binti Sapubi caught Indonesia by surprise.  President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sent a protest note to the Saudi government, complaining that the Saudis did not inform Indonesia of the timing of the beheading.  Commenting on the letter, Presidential special staff on international affairs Teuku Faizasyah said: “The President asked that this become a record incident in the relationship between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. In the future, he [the President] requires a communication mechanism that puts attention to international decorum.  We expect a response to the letter of protest.”  President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that Saudi Arabia “broke the norms and manners of international relations” in executing Ruyati binti Sapubi.

Earlier Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa claimed that the Saudi embassy in Jakarta had apologized to him, regretting the beheading of Ruyanti binti Sapubi.  But the Saudi embassy later issued a press release denying this, and accusing Marty Natalegawa of lying.

Separately, Martua Batubara, spokesman for the Justice and Human Rights Ministry said that the Indonesian government is ready to pay blood money to buy freedom for Indonesians on death row in Saudi Arabia.  Martua Batubara said: “The government is committed to saving them from the death penalty.” Patrialis Akbar, the minister of justice and human rights added: “There is to be an evaluation of the cases of 23 Indonesians facing the death penalty. It is possible to negotiate over the qisas penalty.”

To illustrate this point further, Hendrar Pramutyo, an official of the Indonesian embassy’s Citizen Protection Wing in Saudi Arabia said recently that blood money was paid to secure the release of another Indonesian maid on death row.  He said: “The payment of blood money is an expression of the Indonesian government’s commitment to protect its overseas workers at any cost. The compensation was paid by two officers of the Indonesian Embassy to a panel at the Riyadh government dealing with the case. I am hopeful that the maid will be released shortly.”  A sum of Rp 4.6 billion ($533,000) was paid by the Indonesian government to secure the release of the maid called Darsem who murdered her employer in May 2009.

But what about those Indonesians in prison but not under death sentence?  Patrialis Akbar said: “The Saudi Arabian authority also agreed to help us finance the repatriation of the 316 people.”  So far about 140 had already been repatriated to Indonesia safely. Regarding the balance, Patrialis Akbar said: “We have established a special task force there to advocate for the rest.”  Most of these prisoners are serving 3-5 years jail term.

The Indonesian government is also working with the Saudi government to repatriate immigration offenders who overstayed their visas.  So far some 4,110 overstayers have been repatriated.

Explaining the mass repatriation of Indonesian workers from Saudi Arabia and certain other Middle Eastern countries, Minister for manpower and transmigration Muhaimin Iskandar said: “We will gradually withdraw our domestic workers in those countries because of the level of danger.”

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also announced a freeze on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia, saying: “I have already decided to put a moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia until there is agreement on the framework to protect our workers.”

Reactions From Clerics

Said Aqil Siradj, the head of Nahdlatul Ulema (NU) said that it will soon issue a fatwa banning the export of Indonesian women to work as maids (domestic helpers) in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, Hasyim Muzadi, former head of Nahdlatul Ulama National Board (PBNU) quoted religious leaders of Robithoh Alam Islami, saying: “Isn’t sending a woman to a faraway place without a mahram (any man with whom a woman has a blood or foster relationship) forbidden by Sharia law? Doesn’t sending the women lower Islam and Indonesia itself?”

Hasyim Muzadi said: “I beg and urge the Indonesian Ulama Council to issue a firm fatwa and for all clerics in the country to urge the Indonesian government to stop sending female migrant workers overseas.”

Think About It

There are more than 1 million Indonesian women working in Saudi Arabia as domestic helpers.  They send home annually #7 billion. That’s a lot of money.  Can Indonesia afford to forgo this sum by banning its citizens from working in Saudi Arabia and by recalling those already there?   Does Islam permit the ill treatment of fellow Muslims? Why do Indonesian maids kill their employers in Saudi Arabia?

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