Although the Lebanese media and bloggers in general are focusing on political topics lately, it is refreshing to see other issues being discussed and reported. But again, as soon as such reports are published, it turns out is it even more bad news. International organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Immigration Here & There and regional bloggers are publishing alarming reports about the abuse of foreign maids in the region and lately in Lebanon, where reportedly 200,000 maids are legally employed. And with the absence of media coverage of these reports and the lack of attention from official departments in Lebanon, bloggers are taking action to raise awareness online.
Moussa Bachir uses his blog’s space this week to promote what Human Rights Watch has to say about the maids’ situation in Lebanon, which includes:
“Domestic workers are dying in Lebanon at a rate of more than one per week,” said Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “All those involved – from the Lebanese authorities, to the workers’ embassies, to the employment agencies, to the employers – need to ask themselves what is driving these women to kill themselves or risk their lives trying to escape from high buildings.”
Lebanese Socialist also sheds light on the same report by Human Rights Watch:
HRW said that at least 24 housemaids have died since January 2007 after falling from multi-storey buildings. “Many domestic workers are literally being driven to jump from balconies to escape their forced confinement,” Houry said.
Christa Hillstrom, who dedicates her blog to the danger and the truth of the modern global slave trade, says:
Although the women often come through legal agencies and are somewhat trained for the domestic work, they frequently have their passports confiscated when they arrive and suffer physical and sexual abuse.
The disturbing news continues when Hillstorm quotes Elise Barthet’s report on the situation :
Beirut employment agencies promote them as merchandise or, in extreme case, as pets. They offer advice about which nationalities are supposedly docile, easy to maintain or “harder to break.”
Digging back in time, we can find many bloggers as Moustafa who previously posted his concerns over this growing phenomenon:
Sure they’re starving and living in miserable conditions, but that doesn’t mean that they have to put up with the ultimate abusive environment: The Lebanese household.
Professor Asad Abu Khalil at the Angry Arab News Service finds it a relief that the situation is getting international attention from HRW:
Finally. Human Rights Watch has noticed.
A few months ago Prof Abu Khalil published an article that tackles the maids’ situation in Lebanon, which was later posted at Daily Online Alcohona:
I will never forget Sushar Roxi. Do you remember her? That poor Sri Lankan maid who died by hanging in front of spectators and cameras. Do you remember when the city of Sidon's people woke up to find her dangling from the balcony, after she'd hanged herself with linens? Do you wonder why she hanged herself? Do you wish you could ask her? She dangled from the balcony for hours and nobody noticed or cared. Why did Sushar hang from the balcony and why do we never hear of investigations?
An earlier post by Abullor promotes a documentary (Maid in Lebanon II) that debates workers’ rights, employment, contracts and everyday terms and conditions of work.
Another alarming sign that went largely unnoticed was mentioned by Hanibaal a few months ago. His post focuses on a bill passed by the Ethiopian government that bans works from traveling to Beirut:
…Ethiopia passed the bill after it conducted a thorough analysis into the human right violations and domestic violence Ethiopian migrants face behind closed doors in Lebanon while in duty as maids.
…Past human right records show that 67 Ethiopian women died between 1997 and 1999 alone in Beirut while working. Many were never heard from again and many others remain very difficult to trace because their employers change their Christian name to let them in to the country as Muslims.