Sabbithi v. Al Saleh Client Profiles

In Sabbithi v. Al Saleh, the ACLU charged the country of Kuwait and a Kuwaiti diplomat and his wife with trafficking three women and forcing them to work as domestic employees and childcare workers against their will under slavery-like conditions. The ACLU represented Kumari Sabbithi, Joaquina Quadros and Tina Fernandes, three Indian women who were employed as domestic workers by Major Waleed Al Saleh and his wife Maysaa Al Omar of McLean, Virginia. In the summer of 2005, the three women were brought to the United States under false pretenses, where they were subjected to physical and psychological abuse by the Al Saleh family and forced to work against their will. In the winter of that year, fearing for their lives, each of the women individually fled the household.

In September 2007, Al Saleh and Al Omar fled the U.S. rather than face prosectuion of this case without diplomatic immunity.

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MANI KUMARI SABBITHI

  • Citizen of India
  • Employed by a Military Attaché to the Embassy of Kuwait

Ms. Sabbithi was brought to the United States in July 2005 by Kuwaiti diplomat Major Waleed Al Saleh and his wife, Maysaa Al Omar, to work in their home in McLean, Virginia. The diplomat and his wife forcibly confined Ms. Sabbithi in their home, confiscated her passport, and forced her to work sixteen to nineteen hours per day, seven days per week. They paid her family in India $242 per month and paid her nothing.

Ms. Al Omar verbally and physically abused Ms. Sabbithi on a regular basis, slapping her, pushing her into the wall, pulling her hair, and hitting her with heavy objects. On numerous occasions, Ms. Al Omar threatened to kill Ms. Sabbithi and send her defiled body back to India.

On October 31, 2005, Ms. Al Omar became enraged with Ms. Sabbithi for incorrectly preparing a meal for the children, pulled her hair, and threatened to cut off her tongue. Ms. Al Saleh then came into the kitchen, yelled at Ms. Sabbithi, and pushed her so violently that she struck her head on a table and lost consciousness. That same day Ms. Sabbithi fled and sought refuge at a neighbor’s house.

In January 2007, along with the two other workers exploited by Mr. Al Saleh and Ms. Al Omar, Ms. Sabbithi brought a lawsuit against the diplomat, his wife, and the State of Kuwait for trafficking and forced labor. The case is currently pending before a Washington, D.C., District Court.

JOAQUINA QUADROS

  • Citizen of India
  • Employed by a Military Attaché to the Embassy of Kuwait

In July 2005, Ms. Quadros was brought to McLean, Virginia to work in the home of Kuwaiti diplomat Major Waleed Al Saleh and his wife, Maysaa Al Omar. After working for the diplomat for over two years, she agreed to come to the United States based on the promise that they would give her better pay and working conditions.

But the diplomats ignored their promises and forced her to work seven days per week from 6:30 a.m. until at least 10:30 p.m., sometimes as late as 1:30 a.m. They paid her only $242 to $260 per month, instead of the $1280 stated in the employment contract the diplomats presented to the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.

The diplomats confiscated Ms. Quadros’ passport and isolated her from the outside world. They prohibited her from leaving the house alone and they restricted her ability to attend church. They even forbade her from approaching the windows, looking outside, or opening the door. They verbally abused her and deprived her of food, rest, and medical care.

On January 18, 2006, Ms. Quadros fled the diplomats’ house together with Gila Sixtina Fernandes, another domestic worker abused in the same household. In January 2007, Ms. Quadros joined Mani Kumari Sabbithi in suing the diplomats and the country of Kuwait.

GILA SIXTINA FERNANDES

  • Citizen of India
  • Employed by a Military Attaché to the Embassy of Kuwait

Ms. Fernandes worked for Major Waleed Al Saleh, and his wife, Maysaa Al Omar for five and a half years in Kuwait. She agreed to move to the United States in August 2005 to work for them because she believed their promise of better pay and decent working conditions.

But shortly after her arrival in the U.S., the diplomat and his wife confiscated Ms. Fernandes’ passport and made her a prisoner in their house. They forced her to work as many as nineteen hours per day, without a single day off. They did not pay her a penny directly, and only sent her family in India $346 per month.

Ms. Al Omar treated Ms. Fernandes in a demeaning and abusive manner. She screamed at her when she made mistakes, restricted her ability to eat and use the bathroom, and threatened her with physical harm. Ms. Al Omar denied Ms. Fernandes access to medical care and controlled her use of the telephone.

These unbearable working conditions caused Ms. Fernandes to have serious health problems, including anxiety and substantial weight loss. Believing she would die if she did not escape, Ms. Fernandes fled on January 18, 2006 together with Joaquina Quadros, another worker exploited by the same diplomats. Ms. Fernandes and two other workers are currently being represented by the ACLU in a case that is pending against the diplomats.

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