Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Alem Dechasa

Migrant workers, foreign domestic workers, racism, Arab Spring…

I published several posts on that subject, and an article a couple of months ago (read link in note), and here Robert Fisk offers several cases and eye-witness accounts on racist behaviors in the Arab World. Robert Fisk wrote:

“How many tracts, books, documentaries, speeches and doctoral theses have been written and produced about Islamophobia? How many denunciations have been made against the French Sarkozy, Le Pens, and the Wilders for their anti-immigration (read largely anti-Muslim) policies or down the far darker paths against the plague of this Norway Breivik-style racism?

The problem with all this is that Muslim societies, whittle down to Middle Eastern societies, are allowed to appear squeaky-clean in the face of such trash, and innocent of any racism themselves.

A health warning to all Arab readers of this column: you may not like this week’s rant from yours truly. Because I fear very much that the video of Alem Dechasa‘s, (Ethiopian mother working as house helper in Lebanon), recent torment in Beirut is all too typical of the treatment meted out to foreign domestic workers across the Arab World (there are 200,000 in Lebanon alone).

Many thousands have now seen the footage of 33-year-old Ms Dechasa being abused and humiliated and pushed into a taxi by Ali Mahfouz, the Lebanese agent who brought her to Lebanon as a domestic worker. Ms Dechasa was transported to hospital where she was placed in the psychiatric wing and where, on 14 March, she hanged herself. She was a mother of two and could not stand the thought of being deported back to her native Ethiopia. That may not have been the only reason for her mental agony.

Lebanese women protested in the centre of Beirut, the UN protested, everyone protested. Ali Mahfouz has been formally accused of contributing to her death. But that’s it.

The Syrian revolt, the Bahraini revolution, the Arab Awakening, have simply washed Alem Dechasa’s tragedy out of the news. For example, how many readers know that not long before Ms Dechasa’s death, a Bengali domestic worker was raped by a policeman guarding her at a courthouse in the south Lebanese town of Nabatieh, after she had been caught fleeing an allegedly abusive employer?

As the Lebanese journalist Anne-Marie El-Hage has eloquently written, Ms Dechasa belonged to “those who submit in silence to the injustice of a Lebanese system that ignores their human rights, a system which literally closes its eyes to conditions of hiring and work often close to slavery“. All too true.

How well I recall the Sri Lanka girl who turned up in Commodore Street at the height of the Israeli siege and shelling of West Beirut in 1982, pleading for help and protection. Like tens of thousands of other domestic workers from the sub-continent, her passport had been taken from her the moment she began her work as a domestic “slave” in the city; and her employers had fled abroad to safety – taking the girl’s passport with them so she could not leave herself. She was rescued by a hotel proprietor when he discovered that local taxi drivers were offering her a “bed” in their vehicles in return for sex.

Everyone who lives in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt or Syria, or particularly the Gulf States, is well aware of this outrage, albeit cloaked in a pious silence by the politicians and prelates and businessmen of these societies.

In Cairo, at a dinner I remarked to the Egyptian hosts on the awful scars on the face of the young woman serving food to us. I was ostracised for the rest of the meal and never invited again.

Arab societies are dependent on servants. About 25% of Lebanese families have a live-in migrant worker, according to Professor Ray Jureidini of the Lebanese American University in Beirut. They are essential not only for the social lives of their employers (housework and caring for children) but for the broader Lebanese economy.

In the Arab Gulf, the treatment of migrant labour, male and female, has long been a scandal. Men from the subcontinent (India, Bangladesh, Philippine, and mainly Pakistan) often live eight to a room in slums – even in the billionaires’ paradise of Kuwait – and are consistently harassed, treated as third-class citizens, and arrested on the meanest of charges.

Saudi Arabia has the habit of chopping off the heads of migrant workers who were accused of assault or murder or drug-running, after trials that bore no relation to international justice.

For example, in 1993, a Christian Filipino woman accused of killing her employer and his family was dragged into a public square in Dammam and forced to kneel on the ground where her executioner pulled her scarf from her head before decapitating her with a sword.

How about this case in United Arab Emirates?

Sithi Farouq, a 19-year old Sri Lanka housemaid, was accused of killing her employer’s four-year-old daughter in 1994. She claimed her employer’s aunt had accidentally killed the girl. On 13 April, 1995, she was led from her prison cell in the United Arab Emirates to stand in a courtyard in a white abaya gown, crying uncontrollably, before a 9-man firing squad. It was her 20th birthday. God’s mercy, enshrined in the first words of the Koran, could not be extended to her, it seems, in her hour of need.

Note: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/racist-behaviors-or-cultured-my-ass-environment-in-lebanon/

Racist behaviors or “cultured my ass climate” in Lebanon?

I am reporting this incident first, and then editing an article that I posted a while ago on the deficient cultured sociopolitical climate in Lebanon.

Marcy Newman posted ” I call it murder” on March 14 (with slight editing):

“A few days ago, I watched a video on LBCI TV of Alem Dechasa (an Ethiopian house help?) being savagely beaten by her “employer” Ali Mahfouz in front of the Ethiopian embassy.

At the time, we did not know their names. Now we do. Mahfouz works for one of the 500 agencies that employs migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. Approximately, one of these workers from various nationalities commits “suicide” every week.  As Mahfouz would have it, “they are mentally ill”.  Is this description meant to rationalize savage brutality against laborers who perform the tasks in society that no one else is willing or wants to do?

Reports on al Jazeera and in al Akhbar call Dechasa’s murder “suicide.” I don’t. The exploitative conditions that led to her murder would lead the most sane among us to a similar fate.

Lebanon is a signatory to the UN Trafficking Protocol and, in theory, is subjected to it as law. In practice, that is another story. Lebanese people know that neither the internal security forces nor the courts will enforce international law when it comes to protecting and defending migrant workers in Lebanon.

The Lebanese system makes it hard on domestic foreign workers from being free agents on the labor market.  Subjecting these domestic worker in exploitative positions, where they are abused and forced off balconies in one way or another, are the conditions that the International Labor Organization (ILO) defines as human trafficking or modern-day slavery:

• Deception and false promises concerning conditions of work;
• Lack of freedom to change employers;
• Physical or sexual abuse;
• Debt bondage;
• Confiscation of identity papers;
• Non-payment of wages to worker;
• Physical confinement;
• Threat of denunciation or deportation

Al Jazeera channel did a series of reports on modern-day slavery (the best one was on the United States), but they on purpose  failed not air an episode on Lebanon or the Arab world.  There is an older report from Human Rights Watch on this subject. Lest one think it is only domestic workers whose lives amount for so little here, an Indian migrant laborer was killed and left beneath a pile of rubble for the past four days.

It is classic racism that lies at the heart of what allows us to exploit one group of people because we deem ourselves superior to them. Dechasa was murdered because she dared to seek the protection of her embassy: She was beaten in front of her embassy too!

Dechasa is a martyr in the struggle for the justice of workers around the world who seek a livelihood to support their families. Her murder should not go unchallenged. It should be a call to arms for everyone who believes in justice and who fights against exploitation, slavery, and injustice.” End of report

The Ethiopian woman Alem Dechasa (33 year-old and mother of two kids) who was seen been beaten and dragged by men in Lebanon outside the Ethiopian consulate committed suicide on Wednesday March 14th, 2012.

The pseudo-State of Lebanon is mocking its chattel citizens:  What is “Cultured my ass” Lebanese?

There are plenty of disinformation concerning the Lebanese people.  It is time to get outraged and discuss exaggerated misconceptions disseminated about Lebanese in general, and particularly how our governments mock our “fantastic modern characteristics”.

They say: “The Lebanese is proud”.  Proud my ass.  For over 70 years, the Lebanese have been treated as chattel: Individuals and entire communities were treated as bulk and traded to a feudal “leader” or a sectarian warlord chief…  Proud my ass.  The Lebanese ended up behaving with chattel mentality at every election:  A people indifferent, apathetic sheep following in Indian file, behind medieval-minded “leaders”.

They say: “The Lebanese is smart”.  Smart my ass.  The Tunisian is smart: He overthrew the Ben Ali dictator regime and dismantled the oligarchic political apparatus.  Not a single figure from the old system is represented in the current government and previous practices of State Security laws went down the drain. (That was immediately after the revolution:How reforms can be sustained is another issue…)

The Egyptian is smart:  He wiped out the Mubarak regime and displaced all the old political and administrative figures. He devastated the State Security centers that humiliated and heaped indignities on him for four decades.  The Libyan did it with direct military aid from the western States and Qatar:  The current conditions are to be desired…The citizen in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are catching up at the speed of a bullet train.

They say: “The Lebanese is cultured”.  What is “Cultured my ass?” Is babbling in three languages and inserting words in three languages in a single sentence a measure of culture?  How about a demonstration of ignorance in three languages?  How about incoherence in expressing in one system of language, its rich meanings and traditional texture?

Cultured my ass.  Knowing a language is being able to read and comprehending a language in the original version:  If you hate to read and never read anything of value, or cannot understand a complicated paragraph then, how being cultured is defined?

A century ago, the educated Lebanese mastered the languages they learned, but first mastered the Arabic language:  They emulated the Renaissance Man with their polyvalent knowledge.  When they immigrated, they carried on their education tradition and were on the forefront of reforms, teaching, publishing, and changes.

Cultured? Get out of it.  You don’t want to be visiting Lebanon prison system. You don’t want to be entangled in our legal system.  You don’t want to feeling frustrated with our gender discriminating laws.  You don’t want to read about the horror stories of maltreatment of “imported” foreign maids.  You don’t want to be a poor visitor or a “non-western” tourist.

Even Israel, the worst apartheid State system, now and then feels ashamed of its policies.  We don’t:  We prefer to amass our dirt under the carpet, out of procrastination and indifference.

They say: “The Lebanese is skilled”  Skilled my ass. I am not aware of valid technical schools in Lebanon.  Skilled people are imported from Syria and Egypt.  Find me a plumber, an electrician, or any worthwhile skilled artisan in Lebanon who is less than 65 years of age.  ”Modernity” has displaced family artisan heritage and no “ancient monarchs” are demanding work of arts from Lebanese skilled workers.

They say: “The Lebanese is versatile in knowledge”.  Knowledgeable my ass.  I have taught in Universities and I don’t recall students graduating in rationality, scientific, or critical thinking.  They graduate as the staunchest supporters of this feudal and sectarian system.  How can you use a graduate student who has no patience to study, make the effort to reflect, and invest time to acquiring knowledge by their own volition?

A month ago, youth in Lebanon have been demonstrating regularly every week, demanding change in the sectarian political system.  They want to cancel all mention of religious affiliation in all official documents.  They want civil marriage.  They want laws not discriminating on genders, religion… They want fair and equitable election laws representing all classes and citizens.

The youth in Lebanon want to reverse this trend of ill-cultured conditions, falsehood misinformation, and humiliating situations.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
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