Ethiopia/Lebanon: Online Outrage Over Death of Domestic Worker Turns into Activism

Alem Dechasa, the Ethiopian domestic worker in Lebanon whose abuse video sparked anger amongst Ethiopians, “preferred” to commit suicide by hanging herself using her bed sheets last Wednesday 14 March, 2012.

The graphic nature of the video together with the tragic end of the plot left Ethiopians netizens outraged. Ethiopians have been using Facebook and online petition sites to mourn her death and campaign for justice for domestic workers in the Middle East.

Clip art illustration of a maid mopping a floor. Image source:

Zelalem updates his Facebook status with:

All of we share her plight to be dragged in the floor, all of we roar as a relief for our anger but, sadly and badly none of US can save HER life. Forget our government, we have no such.

Shame on Ws ALL!!!

May Peace be Up on You Alem!

Abiye Teklemariam says:

I have no words. Tragic, tragic, tragic.

Another Facebook user comments:

Last week I watched ETV reporting that Ethiopians in UAE pledged to contribute $22million for the renaissance dam. While our sisters are being abused and killed day in, day out in the Middle East, our ETV is delighted to tell us that these same destitute girls have pledged to contribute. Lord, have mercy!!!

Her controversial death has forced netizens to take the opportunity to put the abuse of many Ethiopians domestic workers in Middle East countries on spotlight.

Concerned Ethiopian netizens have created an online petition to stop the abuse of Ethiopian women in Middle-East and seek justice for abused workers such as Alem and Shewaye.

The petition says:

Due to the lack of prospects of a livelihood, lack of education and wrong perceptions of overseas work, thousands of young Ethiopian women continue to go to the Middle East countries every year to work as domestic workers. These young women are full of hope of bettering their lives and the lives of their families. However, once they arrive in their destination country, the hopes of the majority are shattered by what awaits them. In most cases, their passports are confiscated from them, their salaries withheld, they’re beaten and even prone to rape. In addition to ratifying almost all of the international human rights instruments pertinent to the issue at hand, the Ethiopian government has also put some policy and legislative frameworks for protecting the rights of these women. However, enforcement of these laws are very minimal and weak. Thus, until the Ethiopian government upholds its national and international obligations, issue appropriate policies to ensure the protection of human rights as well as re-integration of these women into the society, Ethiopian migrant and trafficked women will continue to commit suicides, face abuses, and remain trapped on foreign soil.

Another campaign page that seeks to stop the abuse of Ethiopian women in Middle East says:

Alem didn’t committed suicide. But she was abused & murdered. She was seeking for help but help did not arrive. Let us stop this abuse and let the killer and the abuser punished

A candlelight vigil is set to take place at Mesqel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 17 March, to mourn the death of Alem and express solidarity with all abused Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East. One of the organizers announced on Facebook:

Dear Friends, because of the absence of a Lebanese Embassy or Consulate in Addis, the initiators of the ‘Candlelight Vigil for Alem Dechasa’ have decided to conduct the Vigil at Meskel Square. Please spread the news and be there on time so that we can remember our sister and say ‘never again’. tomorrow Saturday March 17 @ 5:05pm.

While the campaign is raging online, Saudi Arabia plans is reported to be in need of 45,000 Ethiopian nationals every month in order to meet its requirement for domestic workers.

Ali Mahfouz - the man seen in the video abusing Alem Dechasa. Photo source:

Ali Mahfouz – the man seen in the video abusing Alem Dechasa. Photo source:

On 16 March, Ethiopians gathered in front of the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington DC in a silent protest to mourn Alem Dechasa. First Secretary of the Lebanese embassy, Mr Toni Frangie spoke with the protesters.

Mobile phone video footage that shows Alem Dechasa being beaten and dragged by force into a car under the gaze of bystanders outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, sparked outrage online.

Ethiopians organised a social media campaign for justice last year after a CNN journalist, Dan Rivers, revealed the horrifying abuse of Shweya Mullah who was brutally injured after the wife of Gaddafi’s son poured boiling water on her whole body for allegedly failing to keep a crying child quiet.

The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.


  • Gezahegn Bezabeh

    I am joining the thousands who expressed their outrage over the abuse of our sister who was subject to a forced labor and adding insult to injury while we are reeling from the shock of the abuse her unceremonious death came as a rude surprise.May the Lord rest the soul of the the departed and comfort the bereaved family! This is not an isiolated incident paradoxically happened in a place she should have got protection but a common practise accross the Middle East if this happened in broad daylight in front of an Ethiopian consulate it is no brainer many abuses go undocumented.
    I lived in the middle East and have a first hand experience of such abuses.One time I had a call from my old friends about an abuse in a jail alleging organ harvesting of dead detainees discovered when they collected remains and they decided not to bring it to the attention of the world fearing if it gets publicised their fate would be worse so fear deters many victims to go silent.
    It is a collective shame for us all Ethiipians if we had created a livable country for our sisters they would not have ended up there in the first place.As Mohamed Bouazizi abuse turned out to be the straw for the Arab Spring I hope her tragic death might anger us in to action.May the Lord give the strength for all who go through such ordeals!
    Gezahegn Bezabeh

  • For those in the New York City Area please join the Ethiopian Social Assistance Committee (ESAC) to struggle against domestic slavery in the Middle East!

  • ESAC also welcomes those who live far but are interested in getting involved in supporting our cause. There is a lot we can do together. Those who live far can support us online!

  • […] has reported that Alem’s tragic death is sparking a new wave of Human Rights […]

  • […] decided to do something different. So far, Lebanese activists have spoken through their blogs, locals in Ethiopia have condemned what happened, and even Ethiopians in the United States have taken a stance. Today, the migrant workers in […]

  • This happens in all the Middle Eastern countries, it will continue unless ILO put stricter regulations to the employers.

  • […] decided to do something different. So far, Lebanese activists have spoken through their blogs, locals in Ethiopia have condemned what happened, and even Ethiopians in the United States have taken a stance. Today, the migrant workers in […]

  • […] from both in and out of Lebanon. Global Citizens Voices has curated an extensive record of social media reactions to Alem’s tragedy. Check out two campaigns launched to address the plight of Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle […]

  • […] force into a car outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut, Lebanon caused angry reactions amongst Ethiopian netizens. Written by Markos Lemma Posted 29 March 2012 16:51 GMT ·  Print version […]

  • […] Recently, mobile phone video footage showing an Ethiopian domestic worker being beaten and dragged by force into a car outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut, Lebanon caused angry reactions amongst Ethiopian netizens. […]

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