‘Rizana’ by Kalaivaathy Kaleel, translated from Sinhala by K.S. Sivakumaran

Let’s stay with the household work theme. The note at the top of this story says that it is “. . . based on the life of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan girl convicted and subsequently executed in Saudi Arabia for the alleged murder of four-month-old Naif al-Quthaibi.” Nafeek was allegedly 17 years old when she arrived to work in Saudi Arabia in 2005. Her parents alleged that her passport was forged to adjust the year of birth so she could legally work abroad as a domestic helper. When the infant dies in her care, she’s accused of smothering it after a fight with her employer. Nafeek claimed the baby choked accidentally during a feeding. There was no post-mortem and Nafeek was beheaded based on a confession she signed in Arabic, which she could not read. This is a fictional account but it works with all these facts of Nafeek’s life to go beyond the headlines.

First published in translation in Words Without Borders, June 2013, and available to read here

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