Headlines

Spared from the sword,
maid reunited with family

Darsem binti Dawud arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday after a 10-hour flight from Saudi Arabia and was immediately taken to the Foreign Ministry while holding her 5-year-old son, Syafii.

Darsem, who was jailed for allegedly killing her employer in 2009, had not seen her son since her departure to work as a maid in Saudi Arabia in 2006.

The 25-year-old was sentenced to death on May 6, 2009, by a Riyadh court for a murder she alleged was committed in self-defense when her employer, a Yemeni, attempted to rape her.

After a ceremony and press conference that detailed the Foreign Ministry’s efforts to return Darsem, hundreds of journalists surrounded the woman, taking pictures, shouting questions and asking her to describe her experience in Saudi Arabia.

Apparently overwhelmed by the moment, Darsem sobbed, prompting her father, Dawud Tawar, to escort his daughter and grandson to a nearby safe room.

Dawud said his daughter did notwant to be interviewed and wanted to return to the family’s home in Subang, West Java.

“We just want to go home now,” he said, adding that the family was grateful for the Foreign Ministry’s aid in returning his daughter to Indonesia safely.

Following public criticism after the execution of another Indonesian migrant worker, Ruyati binti Satubi, the Foreign Ministry moved quickly to secure the House of Representatives’ approval on the use of ministry money to pay so-called blood money to the family of Darsem’s victim.

Earlier, the victim’s family forgave Darsem and agreed to spare her life if they were paid Rp 4.7 billion (US$549,900) in blood money within six months, as allowed by Saudi law.

Darsem’s death sentence was lifted after the Indonesian government paid the compensation on June 25, in advance of the July 7 deadline.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters that Darsem was successfully returned to Indonesia as the result of public participation and the government’s endless efforts to assist and accompany the woman during her ordeal.

“While we are grateful today, we are reminded that we still have many huge tasks ahead,” Marty said.

The ministry will remain in the hot seat in the coming months as 25 Indonesian workers await execution in Saudi Arabia, in addition to seven Indonesians who need to pay an aggregate of $1.2 million to avoid beheading.

Amid Darsem’s emotional return, some lawmakers have questioned who should pay the blood money needed to save the seven Indonesians.

Mahfudz Siddiq, a member of House Commission I overseeing foreign affairs, said the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry and the National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI) were both to blame for slow response to the problem.

“We really appreciate the Foreign Ministry’s efforts. They moved fast. The decision to pay Darsem’s blood money came from the House and the Foreign Ministry. Where were the Manpower Ministry and BNP2TKI? They should be the ones who take care of these problems,”
he said.

Mahfudz said both institutions had a budget to pay blood money.

“Where is the money?” he said.

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