COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A Sri Lankan maid returned from her job in Saudi Arabia with 24 nails inside her body – the result of torture by the family who employed her, a doctor and government official said Wednesday.
L.G. Ariyawathi's body is riddled with needles and nails, which are scheduled to be removed Friday, a doctor confirmed Wednesday.
Ariyawathi, 49, returned to Sri Lanka on Saturday from Saudi Arabia and was hospitalized the next day with severe pain at a facility about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from capital, Colombo, according to media reports.
She told a local newspaper that her employers tortured her with the nails as punishment.
"They (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," Ariyawathi was quoted as saying in the Lakbima, a newspaper published in local Sinhalese language.
She told the paper that she went to Saudi Arabia in March and was paid only two months' salary, with her employer withholding three months' salary to buy an air ticket to send her home.
Dr. H.K.K. Satharasinghe of Kamburupitiya hospital said X-rays show Ariyawathi has 24 nails and needles in her body. The nails range from 1-2 inches.
Her initial puncture wounds have healed over, the doctor told The Associated Press by telephone. However, she finds difficult to walk because she has two nails in her knee and two in her ankles.
Another needle is in her forehead, and the rest are in hands, he said.
"Her condition is stable, but we are giving antibiotics and painkillers," Satharasinghe said, adding that doctors will begin removing the nails on Friday.
The 24 nails are "inside the body due to torture meted out by her Saudi employer," Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, deputy minister of economic development, said in a statement on a government website.
Abeywardena said the government would "report about this matter to the Saudi Government and provide her adequate compensation."
Kalyana Priya Ramanayake, a spokesman for Sri Lanka's Foreign Employment Bureau, said that Ariyawathi had been too afraid to complain about the abuse to Saudi authorities, fearing that her employers might not let her return home. She also did not report the abuse to Sri Lankan officials, until she was hospitalized.
The bureau is a government agency that oversees the welfare of expatriate workers.
Working as maids or drivers, Sri Lankan workers can earn higher salaries overseas. About 1.5 million Sri Lankans work abroad, nearly 400,000 of them in Saudi Arabia alone.