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sobota, 4 czerwca 2011

Manal moved by plight of detained housemaids

Manal Al-Sharif
More than a week in an Eastern Province reformatory has seen a marked change in attitude toward life for a Saudi woman who caused a stir by openly defying a national ban on women driving, Al-Watan daily reported on Friday.
“I am not an activist fighting for women’s right to drive, but a simple person leading a dignified life and looking after my kids. I’m not interested in causing controversy,” a posting on 32-year-old Manal’s Twitter page said on Thursday.
Alkhobar police arrested Manal after she drove a car on Saudi roads on May 21 in protest of the ban. She was released on Monday evening.
“I did not make any statements to anyone and will not make one. My withdrawal from activism was based on my own free will,” Al-Sahrif wrote, referring to reports carried recently by a section of the media. Manal said she planned to participate in charity activities, such as helping women prisoners she met at the Dammam Reformatory.
She said they were mostly housemaids who did not have the money to settle their debts but had completed their prison terms. They were not released because their Saudi sponsors had not cooperated in their release or deportation.
“Some of them are still in jail more than five months after the completion of their prison terms. They would go back to their home countries if they could pay for their tickets home,” she wrote.
After listening to the miserable stories behind the circumstances that landed them in jail, she has expressed determination to help them.
She has also supplied the names of some maids she met there. She said 22 of them were Indonesians who need tickets costing SR1,200 to SR1,500 each to Jakarta and other cities.
“Yani Zareena, an old Sri Lankan maid, has been in jail for the past five years, unable to settle a debt of SR36,000,” she said, adding that if anyone deposited a small amount of money against her name in the jail office, she would be that much closer to freedom.
Emi Roko Labado is a Filipino with two children who has been in jail for two years after failing to settle a debt of SR2,500, she said.
“Mother-of-two Lama Al-Eid has a debt of SR10,000. Nur Sabodin has been behind bars for the last five years, needing to settle a debt of SR17,000,” she added.
However, she called on interested donors to pay the debts on behalf of the inmates to the director of the Dammam prison, saying he was a trustworthy official.
She requested donors not to send any cash to her. “I do not collect anything, but I tell potential benefactors to go to the prison in person.”

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