Rizana Nafeek – The teen girl facing a unjust death penalty in Saudi Arabia

The case of Rizana Nafeek – a teenage Sri Lankan housemaid sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia after inadequate legal proceedings – has made a sensation in the island nation. This article is about her from a circulating e-mail in Sri Lanka.


Rizana was born on 4 February 1988 in Muttur, a war-torn and impoverished Muslim majority village in eastern Sri Lanka which was also affected by the recent Tsunami. She was still a schoolgirl when she was compelled by poverty to go to Saudi Arabia as a maid in May 2005. Though she was only 17 years old at that time, her passport, obtained by an irresponsible employment agent under false pretenses, gave her date of birth as 2 February 1982.

A few days after her arrival in Riyadh , Rizana was transferred by her sponsor to work in his family household in Dawadami, about 390 km west of Riyadh . She was sent to the house of Mr. Naif Jiziyan Khklafal Otaibi, whose wife had a baby boy who was then four months old. Soon after she started working for this family she was assigned to bottle feed the baby – she was left alone when doing this task. Rizana Nafeek had no experience of any sort in caring for such a young infant, as she was only a child herself.

rizana nafeek family

Rizana’s Family In front of their home

saudi housemaids family

Mohammad Razeena, center, mother of Rizana Nafeek, with her two sisters

srilanka housemaids house

Rizana’s House in Muttur, Sri Lanka

The Incident

On 22 May 2005, while Rizana was feeding the child, he started choking. Panicking, she tried to soothe the child by rubbing his chest, neck and face, while shouting for help. Hearing her shouts the mother came running, but by that time the baby was either unconscious or dead. The family handed Rizana over to the police, accusing her of strangling the baby. At the police station there was no translator so she did not understand the charges brought against her. Rizana was made to sign a confession and later charges were filed in court of murder by strangulation.

The Case

On her first appearance in court she was told by the police to repeat her confession, which she did. Later, when she was finally able to talk to an interpreter, sent by the Sri Lankan embassy, she explained in her own language what actually happened. This version was also stated in court thereafter. According to reports, the judges who heard the case requested the father of the child to use his prerogative to pardon the young girl. But, the father refused to grant such pardon. On that basis the court sentenced her to death by beheading. This sentence was made on June 16, 2007.

The last date of appeal was July 16. The total cost of the appeal is 40,000 US dollars or 150,000 Saudi Riyals. 13,333 US dollars has been given to the lawyers by the Asian Human Rights Commission as the Sri Lanka government has not given money for the appeal. A Sri Lankan government delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila is hoping to travel to Saudi Arabia to press for Rizana’s release.

The question is what can be done for someone who has not received proper legal representation, and from all accounts, appears to have been wrongly convicted. There are a number of human rights organizations working on the issue, including Amnesty and the Asian Human Rights Centre. Please do visit the AHRC site as it includes a call for ordinary people to take action on this issue. The site also goes in to more detail about the background of Rizana’s situation.

What We Can Do

  • Inform world-wide of the case and get them to relay pressure on the governments of the countries they live in to intervene. People in Europe and Australia could be very effective.
  • Approach the British High Commission in Riyadh that a Commonwealth citizen needs assistance.
  • Contact the Foreign Commonwealth Office and inform them a Commonwealth citizen needs assistance in Riyadh .
  • Encourage the media, especially the international media, to give publicity to this case.
  • Fax or email the Special Reporter on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to take action.
  • Ask ‘civil society’ groups such as Centre for Policy Alternatives what they are doing about the case.

I sincerely pray and hope that Sri Lanka’s efforts to save Rizana bear fruits when the deputy foreign minister meets the victim’s father.

The world community can do lot of things to help save the life of this girl. There are many petitions being filed. You can find some petitions at






Please take a moment to sign these petitions in order to help her to get a pardon.

May the world unite to save this innocent girls life.

The Plight of Rizana in the News

Sri Lanka in bid to save teen facing death penalty in Saudi Arabia (Kyodo via Yahoo! Asia News)

Sri Lanka ‘s Deputy Foreign Minister Hussain Bhaila will fly to Saudi Arabia this week in a bid to save a Sri Lankan teenage girl who was sentenced to death, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Death Sentence Draws Near as Maid Waits for Appeal (Arab News)

JEDDAH, 9 July 2007 — Time is clearly running out to file an appeal in the case of Rizana Nazik, the 19-year-old Sri Lankan maid who — without legal representation — was found guilty by a Saudi court for the strangulation death of a four-month-old Saudi boy in May 2005.

Maid’s Family Petitions Victim’s Father for Clemency (Arab News)

RIYADH , 7 July 2007 — the father of a Sri Lankan maid facing the death penalty in the Kingdom has appealed to the victim’s father for clemency in a sensational case that has made headlines in the island’s newspapers.

This entry was posted in Life, Middle East, Muslims, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Rizana Nafeek – The teen girl facing a unjust death penalty in Saudi Arabia

  1. Pingback: Rizana Nafeek - The teen girl facing a unjust death penalty in Saudi Arabia at Ijtema

    • Muhammad Elijah says:

      I am a Muslim who offers Salaah according to Hanafi Fiqh but I can see that it is solely due to the efforts of Imaam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab that Laws of The Book of Allaah and The Sunnah of His Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam are being implemented in only one part of Ahlus Sunnah Ummah. Don’t other Ahlus Sunnah Muslims believe in The Book of Allaah and The Sunnah of His Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam . Abdullaah bin Mas’ood radi Allaahu ‘anhu had said that when you would abandon(Tark) The Sunnah of Allaah’s Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam you would go astray, you would become Daalleen,you would lose the Right Path(Siraatul Mustaqeem). We do Du’aa in Salaah to be guided to Siraatul Mustaqeem but by our words(Aqwaal) and actions(A’maal), we show that we are far away from the Knowledge(‘Ilm) and Acting Upon(‘Amal) of The Sunnah of Allaah’s Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam.

  2. tegis says:

    Well, isn’t this a another sign of that Islam is such a friendly, joyful religion. Oh yea, right, and that it is the religion of peace too!
    Right on!

    • Hello Dear Sir/Madam Tegis,
      Islam is a Religion of Friends of God(Awliyaa Allaah) the distinctive characteristic of whom is that they don’t fear any created being(Makhlooq) because they fear The Creator(al-Khaaliq).

      Islam is Religion of Peace towards Monotheists(Muwahhideen) and Righteous(Saalih) humans.Islam is NOT a Religion of Peace towards Polytheists,Idolaters,Trinitarians(Mushrikeen), Atheists(Kuffaar) and Transgressors of The Bounds of God(Faasiqeen) like Sodomites,Fornicators/Adulterers(Zaaniyoon and Zaaniyaat) .

      The truth(al-Haqq) of Islam is like surgery, it hurts but it cures. Allaah loves us more than our mothers.That’s why, one of His names is al-Raheem which comes from the root word RaHM which stands for the womb of mother.

      Brother website owner
      Assalaamu ‘Alaikum,I have used purely the terminology of Qur’aan so I hope you won’t censor it.

  3. Tia says:

    A classical example of misapplication of Islam by despotic regime fully supported by the West. Saudi has a track record of abusing Islamic laws, firstly to justify its own illegal existence and secondly to oppress the poor immigrants. The most basic of Islamic values prohibit exploitation of the poor, which seems to be the case here.

    • “A classical example of misapplication of Islam by despotic regime fully supported by the West.”
      In fact, it is not the rulers but Sharee’ah judges who apply Sharee’ah. And sometimes they are pressurised by the rulers, the West to change decisions which instigate a sense of guilt among them due to their sexual promiscuity. I consider the Sharee’ah judges very brave, that they don’t change their decisions according to The Book of Allaah and The Sunnah of Allaah’s Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam. They only obey Allaah and The Rasool sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam. They obey al-Khaaliq(The Creator) not Makhlooq(created beings). They may make mistakes because they are humans(Bashar) not by intent(‘Amadan)

      • HLANGL says:

        @”They may make mistakes because they are humans(Bashar) not by intent(‘Amadan)”: Making mistakes may be humane, we all know that, but what about the reluctance to correct them even if given a second chance ?. Why was the original verdict not overturned during the appeal even when they clearly knew the facts by then, & there had not been any conclusive evidence either in this case ?. @ “I consider the Sharee’ah judges very brave, that they don’t change their decisions according to The Book of Allaah and The Sunnah of Allaah’s Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam. “: Then who will have to pay the price for their faults, isn’t it someother who has nothing to do with that fault ?. What kind of bravery is that, for letting someone to be beheaded for your faults ?. What kind of logic is this & who’ll become the ultimate scapegoat of it ?. Just think about this, there’s a plenty of room for enhancements in all these religions, none of them is perfect though the proportions will differ from one to another.

  4. deanna says:

    omg this is soo bad.
    i cannot even imagine.
    im like crying.
    this is soo bad.

  5. page says:

    well am a muslim, seriously that is totally wrong, the father of the victim shud pardon her, for sake of humanity,she is jus a child as well who hsnt seen nething, i know he lost his child an it is heart breaking for him but by doing that it aint gonna bring the child bck.

    • Assalaamu ‘Alaikum brother
      The sentence should preferably go like this:
      He should pardon for sake of Allaah beacuse all humans are his servants.

    • HLANGL says:

      The fundamental fault lies in this step. Why should this option be given to the parents ?. If the jude conducting the appeal trial sees that something definitely wrong has happend somewhere during the initial trial, why can’t he correct & overturn the original verdict at least during the appeal ?. Be it Shariah or what, what logic is this ?. The initial trial which convicted the person to be beheaded lacks even the basics of a fair trial. No proper postmortems, no proper/unbiased interpreter/translator to appear for the accused even when the accused knew nothing about Arabic in which the trial had been conducted, no any unbiased lawyer to appear for the accused who will provide the assistance to make sure that full justice is done, basically nothing in her defense… Any accused coming from an outside territory, say even a well-grown adult, can become just defenseless in this case. The whole trial/legal system is flawed, but what about the punishments given in return ? Beheadings, amputations, …., all medieval time punishments. Before judging others, these religous leaders should judge/rationalize themselves, otherwise sooner than later a day will come that they will be juded by others. Just think about this whole system. Come out of the square you had been in, and just have a look at from outside. Then you’ll see what had kept you blindfolded for all these years. Please thinnk about this aspect.

  6. yakhanu says:


    i am muslim in indonesia..
    nice site

  7. Muhammad Hamas says:

    Islam is justice in nature. But people in Saudi specially, which country has claimed to have been applying Islamic shariah, they often mis-use Islamic Shariah law for their own interest.
    There is NOTHING wrong with Islamic Law, but people who carry the responsiblity to apply it have been wrongdoers.

    If it is related to immigrants or poor/low level citizen, they will be hurry to justify for hudood (eg.death sentence, choping hand, etc). But when it comes to royal family or high level citizens, system will go round and round to get rid of the shariah law.

    Establishment of Kingdom Of Saudi Aramco,..uups I mean Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been A BIG MISTAKE from beginning. They are NOT muslim rulers, but muslim bughaat/ rebellious muslims. They don’t have such capability and flexiblity in practicing Islam the way it should be as per previous muslim generation did in the past.

    • I consider the Kingdom to be the least bad as compared to the entire Ahlus Sunnah Ummah.Why don’t Ahlus Sunnah Muslims hurry to label Faasiq Parliamentarians as Bughaat in others parts of Ahlus Sunnah Ummah which don’t implement the Laws of Allaah and Rasool sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam?
      I would ask your Nass/Daleel about declaring them Bughaat. But to me, they are better Ulil Amri Minkum(Those in authority among You as Allaah tells us to obey them in Aayah 59 of Soorah an-Nisaa of al- Qur’aanul Hakeem)?

  8. Stupid Saudis says:

    The Saudi govt cannot be taken as serious muslims. They do not represent the true islam. They are very much an illegal state just like Israel.

    • Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Akhee
      The Saudi govt doesn’t interfere in the implementation of Sharee’ah as much as other Ahlus Sunnah Faasiq parliamentarians do. There is not a single Ahlus Sunnah “country” with elections where there is Sharee’ah of Islam.Perhaps, it may be in future InshaAllaah in Afghanistan, but after US invasion elections have started there.
      Israel doesn’t implement the Laws of Tawraat, Sharee’ah judges is Saudia give decisions according to Qur’aan and they are implemented. All Muslims states which don’t implement Sharee’ah are illegal states.

  9. Pingback: SAUDI ARABIA: Father of dead infant willing to forgive Sri Lankan maid, but not mother « Islam: Human Rights, Spiritualism, Rethinking Islam, Jihad…

  10. Fire says:


  11. Water says:


    ONE twoo !
    *FART* ahh smells like my beautiful perfume
    aaaa ! Chicken masala

  13. Ok ,
    I love to dance
    I Love to sing
    *Dad shouts* ”Chirs would u plz stop putting my underwear into the washing machine without soap* ”And plz ! Brush ur teeth its very smelly”
    OK DAD

  14. I like to move it , move it,
    u like to move it move it
    she like to move it move it
    i like to move!
    *Chris Pearson Shouts* DAD STOP DANCING ON MY Bed! * dad turns around facing chris*



  17. saleh says:

    See there are problems in Saudi Society like any other country, but please Muslims are not supposed to criticise other Muslims even if they are wrong.
    If this girl was inocent then she will have her reward will Allah who is the best Judge of all. So leave this matter to Allah.

    • You’re kidding, right Saleh?

      So these misguided Muslims must be allowed to do as they please?

      • Assalaamu ‘Alaikum sister Maimoonah
        Sharee’ah judges in Saudi Arabia are closer to the Deen as practised in the Best of Times(Khairul Quroon) of Maimoonah radi Allaahu ‘anhaa, than most of us misguided Ahlus Sunnah Muslims who have abandoned the implementation of Laws of Allaah and The Rasool sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam. We have become misguided by abandoning The Sunnah of Allaah’s Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam as The Rasool of Allaah sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam had desribed that you would not become misguided as long as you hold fast/adhere/Tamassuk/I’tisaam to The Book of Allaah and The Sunnah of Allaah’s Nabi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam. Why don’t we demand Obedience of Allaah and The Rasool sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam from our rulers?

    • nasser hussain says:

      if as you say, leave everything for allah(swt), then why did he send prophets to correct people. 124,000 of them, mind you. remember, even our most beloved prophet muhammed (sal) was corrected by allah (swt) many a times. then why is there shariah. that is to judge between us.

  18. Maimuna says:

    Islamic law is clear. Death by intention to kill (premeditated murder) is “life for life”. This is also Judeo-Christian law (Mosaic law).

    Death by accident is a different matter. First of all there has to be ample proof. If established that the accused has caused the death of the victim, he/she must pay ‘dhiya’, about USD 450,000/- to the family of the deceased.

    If, by any chance, the accused cannot pay, he/she has to fast a prescribed duration of time.

    Islamic law is just and merciful. The victim’s family would gain Allah’s pleasure if they accept the ‘dhiya’ and forgive for Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

  19. mr. fox says:

    why is the Saudi government so brutal? why do western governments continue to support such a government that brutalizes its people?

    o the hypocrisy!

  20. Have you missed the brutality of the “compassionate” Western governments who say that a million deaths of Iraqi children due to sanctions were justified as “compassionate” Madeline Albright is quoted to have said.
    Or, Condoleeza Rice is quoted to have termed the massacre of Muslims in Lebanon by the satanic secular Israeli occupation as the birthpangs of a new Middle East. Syed Mawdudi,a South Asian Muslim thinker had said that crimes/mistakes are never non-pregnant. They give birth to more crimes/mistakes. The crimes/mistakes of the so called West would eventually threaten its own existence just like they are threatening the physical and spiritual existence of Islam now.

  21. The Sharee’ah judges in Saudi Arabia are the most learned, most Allaah-fearing judges among Ahlus Sunnah Ummah.

    They may make mistakes because they are humans(Bashar) not by intent(‘Amadan)

  22. nasser hussain says:

    well, this girl has to be pardoned. in fact sometime ago, the saudi king pardoned british nurses on death penalty. i ask sri lankan govt. to hand over the culprits, who got a passport, claiming higher age, to be dealt by the saudis. otherwise they will like now, will escape punishment, and this will continue.

  23. nasser hussain says:

    in sinhala community, we say, to err is human, to pardon is godly.

    • Rubyfjord says:

      Forgivenness is not an obligation, but recommended. You cannot force anyone to forgive, but forgiveness is a voluntary action. It is better to forgive. However, Rahmah is one of the five pillars of Sharee’ah. If a decision leads from Rahmah to the opposite of it, the it is not sharee’ah.

  24. nasser hussain says:

    i do not know, whether this father of the child, who died in this incident, after all the factual presentations, wants to return to pre islamic arabia, where they used to bury baby girls.

  25. HMNAWAS says:

    rizana what happent now

    • HLANGL says:

      Executed/Beheaded last week. The God may be consoling her these days …, that may have been the wish by the so called religious leaders who convicted her in the name of Shariah, despite knowing very well the fact that no any conclusive evidence existed to prove that she has actually commited the crime / done it purposely / or the incident had taken place due to her ignorance & recklessness.

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