Abuse and racism prevent Lebanon from truly being 'civilized'

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Last week, a video surfaced online showing an Ethiopian maid in Lebanon being beaten and dragged. In the distressing footage, the woman is kicked, verbally abused and then dragged into a car, allegedly owned by the man who runs the agency that employed her.

Reportedly in a fragile mental state, she had refused deportation back to Ethiopia, but clearly did not want to return to her place of employment. The man orders her to shut up, and while several bystanders urge him to leave her alone, they do not intervene. The video sparked outrage and received widespread attention from human rights organisations within and outside Lebanon. The woman was later admitted to hospital. Two days ago, it was reported that the woman in the video had hanged herself using a bed sheet.

This is not an isolated incident. Domestic servants in Lebanon from the Asian sub-continent and east Africa are not only single women unprotected by kin or friends in an alien environment, they are also at the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and racially, they fall at the bottom of the spectrum. Across the Middle East, sponsorship rules on foreign workers and the stratification of rights based on nationality and skin colour combine to enable to victimisation of these women.

A Beirut bar had to cancel a fancy-dress event inviting guests to dress as domestic workers and “create your own maid costume, speak like them and look like a Phillipino”

No country in the Arab world is free from racial discrimination. But there is a perception, encouraged by the eagerness with which people in other countries, particularly Gulf ones, devour Beirut’s cultural exports and standards of beauty, that the Lebanese are somehow superior to other Arabs in that they are more liberal, more occidental in inclination and above all else, much lighter-skinned and therefore more “attractive”. The last 20 years has witnessed an invasion by Lebanese music and entertainment. After many painful years of civil war that crippled the country, Beirut emerged, unencumbered by the conservatism of the majority of Middle Eastern countries, more “modern” and “civilized”. But it surprises few in the region that the worst discrimination occurs in Lebanon, and that it is inflicted on only certain races and nationalities.

Stories about the mistreatment of domestic and foreign workers have emerged with regularity. They range from the distressing to the ridiculous. Earlier this year, a Beirut bar had to cancel a fancy-dress event inviting guests to dress as domestic workers and “create your own maid costume, speak like them and look like a Phillipino” [sic]. Last year, the public beating of a group of Sudanese people holding an event in support of a cancer charity was added to the litany of embarrassments.

In 2008, Human Rights Watch reported that “domestic workers are dying in Lebanon at the rate of one a week”. The phenomenon became so widespread, particularly among Ethiopians, that a Lebanese blogger set up Ethiopian Suicides, a website dedicate to documenting the deaths and the conditions that led to them. The International Labour Office published a paper on foreign workers in Lebanon and stating that: “live in and runaway migrant workers are ‘unfree labour’ in the sense that they do not have the right to choose an employer without express permission from the state authorities. Nor do they have the right to withdraw their labour from their sponsor/employer without being rendered illegal and thus liable to arrest, imprisonment, and deportation.”

Against this backdrop of a legal vacuum and racial hierarchy, conditions are ripe for abuse. The irony is that Lebanon does have a political culture that is somewhat more advanced than many Arab countries, in that local groups are lobbying for the rights of migrant workers and putting pressure on the government to reform – something that would be unheard of in Saudi Arabia, for example. Farah Salka from the Lebanese Anti-Racism Movement says that it is time for a redefining of the word “racist” in Lebanon. Hopefully across the region we can also begin to redefine the meaning of “civilized”, making it not only about dress, physical beauty and liberal lifestyle, but empathy with other human beings whatever their race or nationality.

By Nesrine Malik, The Guardian

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Comments

24 responses to “Abuse and racism prevent Lebanon from truly being 'civilized'”

  1. Amine123 Avatar

    WHen this happen why the police didnot arrested this man for the beating of this woman? I guess there is no LAW govern this country anymore

    1. police!!! there is no police in lebanon but there is ali baba and the forty thieves are runing the country and their opposition busy skking and breaking their legs waiting for STL !!

  2. Amine123 Avatar

    WHen this happen why the police didnot arrested this man for the beating of this woman? I guess there is no LAW govern this country anymore

    1. police!!! there is no police in lebanon but there is ali baba and the forty thieves are runing the country and their opposition busy skking and breaking their legs waiting for STL !!

  3. FadiAbboud Avatar
    FadiAbboud

    what law? criminals get away with assassination of high ranking political figures and although everyone knows who these criminals are, nobody dares to arrest them or prosecute them. There is no justice in a country that does not believe in justice to practice it. 

  4. FadiAbboud Avatar
    FadiAbboud

    what law? criminals get away with assassination of high ranking political figures and although everyone knows who these criminals are, nobody dares to arrest them or prosecute them. There is no justice in a country that does not believe in justice to practice it. 

  5. grpeppermint Avatar
    grpeppermint

    How would the Lebanese feel if one of their compatriots got beaten and humiliated like this abroad?
    There is no use for a law if it is not enforced.
    How one treats others is taught at home but also is a reflection of a society as a whole.

    1. Hannibal Avatar

      well it depends on his sect… If he is of a different sect they may cheer… lol

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar
        5thDrawer

        Hahahhahaaahahaha … unfortunately correct Hannibal. 😉

  6. grpeppermint Avatar
    grpeppermint

    How would the Lebanese feel if one of their compatriots got beaten and humiliated like this abroad?
    There is no use for a law if it is not enforced.
    How one treats others is taught at home but also is a reflection of a society as a whole.

    1. well it depends on his sect… If he is of a different sect they may cheer… lol

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar
        5thDrawer

        Hahahhahaaahahaha … unfortunately correct Hannibal. 😉

  7. Humans which do not care about others  categorize and supposed to be another living  ANIMAL group and this group create there ANIMAL LAW which have unfair law which judge ppls with their religion  ………criminal government and country

  8. Humans which do not care about others  categorize and supposed to be another living  ANIMAL group and this group create there ANIMAL LAW which have unfair law which judge ppls with their religion  ………criminal government and country

  9. I know Lebanon is a very good country for living. But nowadays it is becoming a turmoil for its citizens and others who are having a shelter there to get some more living. The living is mutual. Every body should get respect for he/she is human created in the image of the Creator God. Please some gangsters watch out your moves. There is some one who is looking upon you – Allah/God you creator. You will reap what you sow some time later. I am an Ethiopian, what do you think I could feel? Because my sister is been dragged along the street by some people who are not responsible for their acts. I don’t know what to do. Do you know I am feeling to drag some one who is a Lebanese to cool my rage. What did we do to you, you Lebanese people? You burned our Air plane, many more sisters of ours are killed, and yet not stopped by the government. I am so angry to do something. Because no one is responding, even the ‘government’.
    Please control you people – the ‘government’. Pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!
    We Ethiopians don’t see every thing going astray.
    Watch out!

    Tsetsu

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      Einstein was right … everything is about relativity. Compared to Ethiopia, Lebanon is a very good country for living – according to T. (And I’m sure that’s not a missing T for Prophet. 😉
      And then, there’s Somalia, of course …. but then there’s …. Well, you know what I mean.
      There could be worse places than Lebanon … 
      Now, the real trick is to keep making it better … and avoid going downhill like Syria.

  10. I know Lebanon is a very good country for living. But nowadays it is becoming a turmoil for its citizens and others who are having a shelter there to get some more living. The living is mutual. Every body should get respect for he/she is human created in the image of the Creator God. Please some gangsters watch out your moves. There is some one who is looking upon you – Allah/God you creator. You will reap what you sow some time later.

    Tsetsu

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      Einstein was right … everything is about relativity. Compared to Ethiopia, Lebanon is a very good country for living – according to T. (And I’m sure that’s not a missing T for Prophet. 😉
      And then, there’s Somalia, of course …. but then there’s …. Well, you know what I mean.
      There could be worse places than Lebanon … 
      Now, the real trick is to keep making it better … and avoid going downhill like Syria.

  11. Abdulfetah Ali Avatar
    Abdulfetah Ali

    Though
    most of the people in this region think that dress, physical beauty, “liberal
    lifestyle” and erecting a concrete jungle are the sign of civilization but,
    unless individuals psycho make up has not changed in my opening the above
    mentioned things don’t indicate civilization.      

     

  12. Abdulfetah Ali Avatar
    Abdulfetah Ali

    Though
    most of the people in this region think that dress, physical beauty, “liberal
    lifestyle” and erecting a concrete jungle are the sign of civilization but,
    unless individuals psycho make up has not changed in my opening the above
    mentioned things don’t indicate civilization.      

     

  13. The lebanon immigration law says it all :-

    As a domestic worker, let us say that you are physically abused by your employer, denied of your wages or forced to be their sex slave and one day , you run out for sefty to tell the world your ordeal, but unfortunately they come and get you just before you make it to your embassy.

    At that point  the lebanon law makes it OK for your capturer to claim that you are illigal as you have withdrawn your labour without their consent and use the pretext of deportation to get you back to their place and continue to enjoy the pleasure of having you as their property.

    And finally the amabasador will come out and tell us that you are infact illigal. Because, to continue to be legal you needed to have stayed with your masters no matter what.

    How come that a civilian is given the free will to pursue you and carry you to the airport for deportation without even arranging your flight and other important travel documents let alone your belongings? Imagine, he doesn’t even let you to talk to the consular office.

    Then, one hero have it on tape and the police briefly detains the suspect and let him free b/c he has given his adress. And you get locked up in a psychiatric hospital. And the ambassador pays a vist to where you are just to tell you that you are infact illigal! Why did you try to run away?

    DO YOU  AGREE WITH ME?

    1. Hannibal Avatar

      That civilian runs the workers agency… Still this does not give him the right to treat her that way. ANY person on Lebanese land including a criminal should be dealt with dignity and respect. The MOST “civilized” societies will experience mayhem if the LAW is not enforced. Alas, in Lebanon we have a state within a state and people with guns and our police is afraid of raiding these areas. It is not the fault of the silent majority. I am Lebanese and will never ever treat another human being no matter what he has done in such a manner. Hell I won’t treat an animal in such a manner. The lack of civility is rampant and we need a strong central government to enforce the law and for us to vote new laws into our constitution. For now, sadly, Lebanon is a failed state…

  14. The lebanon immigration law says it all :-

    As a domestic worker, let us say that you are physically abused by your employer, denied of your wages or forced to be their sex slave and one day , you run out for sefty to tell the world your ordeal, but unfortunately they come and get you just before you make it to your embassy.

    At that point  the lebanon law makes it OK for your capturer to claim that you are illigal as you have withdrawn your labour without their consent and use the pretext of deportation to get you back to their place and continue to enjoy the pleasure of having you as their property.

    And finally the amabasador will come out and tell us that you are infact illigal. Because, to continue to be legal you needed to have stayed with your masters no matter what.

    How come that a civilian is given the free will to pursue you and carry you to the airport for deportation without even arranging your flight and other important travel documents let alone your belongings? Imagine, he doesn’t even let you to talk to the consular office.

    Then, one hero have it on tape and the police briefly detains the suspect and let him free b/c he has given his adress. And you get locked up in a psychiatric hospital. And the ambassador pays a vist to where you are just to tell you that you are infact illigal! Why did you try to run away?

    DO YOU  AGREE WITH ME?

    1. That civilian runs the workers agency… Still this does not give him the right to treat her that way. ANY person on Lebanese land including a criminal should be dealt with dignity and respect. The MOST “civilized” societies will experience mayhem if the LAW is not enforced. Alas, in Lebanon we have a state within a state and people with guns and our police is afraid of raiding these areas. It is not the fault of the silent majority. I am Lebanese and will never ever treat another human being no matter what he has done in such a manner. Hell I won’t treat an animal in such a manner. The lack of civility is rampant and we need a strong central government to enforce the law and for us to vote new laws into our constitution. For now, sadly, Lebanon is a failed state…

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