DOCTORS have removed 13 nails and five needles from a Sri Lankan who says the couple she worked for in Saudi Arabia hammered them into her body.

L.G. Ariyawathi, who was admitted to hospital with severe pain after returning on Saturday from Saudi Arabia, has said the family she worked for punished her by heating the nails and needles before sticking them into her.

X-rays have shown she had 24 nails and needles in her body, said Dr Keerthi Satharasinghe of Kamburupitiya hospital, about 160 km from the capital, Colombo.

The nails ranged in length from 2.5 cm to 5 cm, while the needles were about 2.5 cm. They were removed from her legs and forehead.

“The surgery is successful and she is recovering now,” Satharasinghe said after a three-hour procedure.

He said six more needles in both hands could not be removed as such an operation could harm her nerves and arteries but they would not be harmful to her.

Since being admitted to hospital, Ms Ariyawathi has described the abuse meted out by her employers.

“They (her employer and his family) did not allow me even to rest. The woman at the house had heated the nails and then the man inserted them into my body,” the 49-year-old was quoted as saying in the Sinhalese-language newspaper Lakbima.  She told the paper she went to Saudi Arabia in March but has been paid only two months’ salary, with her employer withholding the rest to buy an air ticket to send her home.

About 1.5 million Sri Lankans work abroad, many as maids or drivers, to earn more than they can at home. Nearly 400,000 work in Saudi Arabia alone.  Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Bureau said Ms Ariyawathi had been too afraid to complain about the abuse to Saudi authorities, fearing her employers might not let her return home.

Deputy Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said the government would report the matter to the Saudi government and compensate Ms Ariyawathi.
Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment.  Nimal Ranawaka, labour counsellor at the Sri Lankan embassy in Riyadh, said the embassy had requested a meeting with Saudi officials.

“We informed Saudi authorities. They have to take action against the employer=.”