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Cousin tells of Filipino maid's horrific burns

By Salma Abdelaziz and Schams Elwazer, CNN
updated 10:36 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The cousin who posted the pictures says he didn't know what to do
  • The maid claims her Saudi boss's mother poured boiling water on her
  • The photos sparked outrage on social media

(CNN) -- The man who shared images of the abuse that a Filipino maid allegedly suffered on the job in Saudi Arabia said he did so because he didn't know what else to do.

Arnel Tahal is a cousin of the victim, Pahima Alagai Palacasi, and was shown the graphic photos of burns all over Palacasi's back, arms and legs by another cousin.

Tahal said he posted the pictures on Facebook because "I did not know what to do. But after people started sharing the pictures, some told us what we can do to help her."

The result is that the injured Palacasi, who is married and has two young children, will remain in Riyadh in a search for justice.

The burns allegedly came at the hands of her employer's mother.

Maid in Saudi says she was scalded
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Maid in Saudi says she was scalded Maid in Saudi says she was scalded

The 22-year-old maid was at the home of her employer's mother on May 4 when "her sponsor's mother poured boiled water over Palacasi due to a simple misunderstanding," according to a Philippines Labor Ministry statement posted Tuesday.

Tahal told CNN that the employer's mother poured a thermos of scalding water on the maid after yelling at her for not preparing coffee quick enough.

Two days later, the employer took Palacasi for medical care.

While at hospital, Palacasi was able to reach a relative who lives in Riyadh who helped her sneak out of hospital. The cousin then posted graphic photos of Palacasi's wounds on Facebook, showing bright pink and white scalded skin all over her back, the backs of her arms, and parts of her leg, according to the ministry statement.

"I feel that we need more help from the government of the Philippines to get justice for my cousin," Tahal said.

The Philippines government said it would help Palacasi file a case against her employer and has suspended the work of the Saudi recruitment agency that hired her.

The English-language Saudi daily Arab News reported Wednesday that Riyadh police were conducting a joint investigation of the case.

Palacasi alleges that her employer began physically abusing her within days of her arrival, kicking and lashing her after she complained of being homesick. She also claimed her employers deprived her of food.

"[My employer's mother] asked me to throw away all the leftover food but I didn't do it so that when I got hungry I could have something to eat," Palacasi said in a cellphone video reportedly taken by her cousin and released to ABS-CBN, a CNN affiliate in the Philippines.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video.

"Please help me," Palacasi says in the video. "Help me file a case against my employer. I suffered a lot."

Palacasi is currently at an embassy shelter in Riyadh. "She is stable, in high spirits, and is relating well with fellow (Filipino workers)," according to the government statement.

"We are following up on the case with the police and the embassy and we will respond once we have all the details of the case," Mohammed Almadi of Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Commission told CNN.

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