June 11, 2005

Saudi couple enslaves Indonesian woman in Colorado

This is human trafficking:

Indictment: Saudi Pair in Colo. Kept Slave (link)
Jun 10, 10:27 PM (ET)

AURORA, Colo. (AP) - A Saudi Arabian couple was in custody Friday, accused of turning a young Indonesian woman into a virtual slave, forcing her to clean, cook and care for their children while she was threatened and sexually assaulted.

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Homaidan Al-Turki, 36, and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan, 35, on charges of forced labor, document servitude and harboring an illegal immigrant.

Al-Turki also faces state charges including kidnapping, false imprisonment and extortion, as well as 12 charges of sexual assault. His wife faces some of the same charges. The two could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

Phone messages left Friday for their individual lawyers were not immediately returned.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner said the Indonesian woman, who is in her 20s, came to the United States with the couple legally to perform domestic chores. But her U.S. visa was hidden from her by Al-Turki and Khonaizan, according to Thursday's indictment.

The woman was controlled by "a climate of fear and intimidation" that included sexual abuse and the belief that she would "suffer serious harm" if she did not perform her tasks, the indictment said.

The woman is believed to have lived with the couple from 2000 until November 2004, according to authorities. Dorschner said she is not in custody.

Authorities said the couple owed the woman nearly $93,000 in unpaid wages.

A neighbor, Vicki Lisman, said she believed the couple has four children - three young girls and a teenage boy. In the summer, the mother and children would go to Saudi Arabia while the father stayed in Colorado, she said.

Lisman said she had no idea another woman lived with the family.

"There was certainly a sense of normalcy with the house and the family," she said.

Al-Turki worked at Al-Basheer Publications and Translation in Denver. No one answered the company's phone Friday.

A classic case of debt peonage. The woman would probably never be able to pay off the $93,000 in "debt."*

I shudder to think what the Saudi man would do to the poor Indonesian woman while his wife and children were away in Saudi Arabia for the summer.

I hate the the sound of that one charge "harboring an illegal immigrant".... while it is techinically true, it almost sounds like "harboring a known felon" or something dangerous of the sorts.

Unbeknownst to many, these types of threatening and abusive "employer-employee" relationships (read: "harboring forced immigrant labor" to ridiculously oversimplify it) happen much more often than people think...

A simple primer on methods of intimidation include: the threat of witholding or destroying a "worker"'s passport/legal papers/etc., the threat of sexual/and/or/physical abuse, reporting to the authorities, and harm to foreign relatives/friends are common means of manipulation utilized in modern day human enslavement. And of course, there's the classic unforgivable, ever-growing, debt that just appears out of nowhere usually.

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention by the beautiful Ashley that I misread the following line:

Authorities said the couple owed the woman nearly $93,000 in unpaid wages.
I accidentally read it to say the Indonesian woman owed the Saudi couple $93k. Regardless, if the reverse was true, it would be highly improbable that she could ever repay the debt.

Posted by Kyer at June 11, 2005 11:54 AM