A journey to earn money to help poverty stricken parents eventually turned into a tragic story. This is the tragic story of Rizana Nafeek, sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly strangling a four-month-old baby to death while bottle-feeding.

Rizana Nafeek of Muttur left the country for Saudi Arabia as a housemaid with thousands of hopes and desires of earning money to free her ly from the bondage of poverty. She was employed as a housemaid by Nafi Jiziyan Khalal Al-Otaibi to look after his four-month-old baby.

She was doing her assigned job well. The inexperienced young Rizana used to bottle-feed the baby. One day, she was bottle-feeding the baby as usual, unfortunately the baby choked on the milk and for her bad luck the finger-print on the baby’s neck became evidence to suggest that Rizana had strangled the baby, even though Rizana had no motive whatsoever to do so. It was her inexperience that caused this situation. But Rizana was convicted of killing the baby.

Now the innocent young Rizana who went abroad to safeguard the family from hunger is in limbo. The only sign of calmness in this sea of turbulence is the fact that Rizana’s death sentence has been withheld by Saudi Arabian Authorities. The life of Rizana is hanging by a thread, though.

Rizana’s family is living in a small wattle and daub hut with minimal facilities. Their economic condition is perilous.

Hearing the message that their daughter Rizana has been sentenced to death for killing a four-month baby, the dreams of Rizana’s parents were shattered.

They approached the Government and relevant authorities. They consoled Rizana’s parents and started a humanitarian operation to protect Rizana from the death penalty.

The Sri Lanka Government held top level discussions with the Saudi Arabian authorities to safeguard young Rizana. The Asian Human Rights Commission joined hands with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in the endeavour to protect Rizana from being beheaded.

The Sri Lankan Government is taking utmost care to protect innocent Rizana.

Meanwhile, Foreign Employment Promotion Minister Dilan Perera has assured that the Sri Lankan Government was prepared to pay blood money to the parents of the deceased Saudi Child at any moment in order to seek a release for Rizana Nafeek.

The nineteen-year-old Sri Lankan born Rizana Nafeek of Muttur was sentenced to death by a Saudi Court in February 2005 for strangling a four-month-old baby to death while bottle-feeding.

But international human rights organizations point out that persons are not executed for crimes committed when they are minors. Following a request made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa the Saudi King has withheld the death sentence granted by the High Court in Saudi Arabia.

In addition the Sri Lankan Government has also secured a special pardon from the custodian of the two Holy mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

Rizana’s parents’ wish is that their daughter should comeback to Sri Lanka one day.

Rizana’s father Muhammad Nafeek told the Sunday Observer that they do not know anything about the latest developments concerning their daughter.

However, they know that the death sentence has been suspended. They have no way of corresponding with Rizana.

Rizana’s house in Shafi Nagar, Muttur, can easily be spotted by anyone as it is the only wattle and daub house there. Rizana’s father sells firewood for a living. His earnings are insufficient to meet day-to-day living costs. And now due to mental depression caused by Rizana’s plight, Muhammad Nafeek is unable to do his job as before.

Now the family is going through an even more difficult period.

Nafeek said that he is unable to concentrate on work, until his daughter is released. He says, he is unable to ‘breathe’ freely, thinking of Rizana day and night.

Rizana’s mother said there is nothing greater for them other than the life of their daughter Rizana. “We are begging the authorities to come forward to protect our daughter from being beheaded.” She said that they are confident she would be released. Their only property comprises two bulls and a damaged cart. They are looking after three children with the earnings from this bullock cart. Now the bulls are also sickly.

“We believe in Almighty Allah. He will never give up on them,” she says. They have four children including Rizana. The other three children are schooling now. One son is studying for his G.C.E. (O/L) examination, the other son is studying in Grade 10 and the fourth one is a girl and she is in Grade Eight.

Rizana’s mother said their daily earnings are insufficient to cover the expenditure for books, food and stationery.

After the floods our economy collapsed further. We were severely affected by the floods. Covering the daily expenditure is a huge burden.

“We are begging the King of Saudi Arabia, parents of the deceased baby and other relevant authorities to pardon our daughter Rizana and release her.” That is our last hope. There is no doubt that all Sri Lankans share their sentiments and feel the pain of Rizana’s parents.

Source: The Sunday Observer – 27.03.2011