From The Guardian
Four Ethiopian domestic workers are thought to have killed themselves in three weeks. Lebanon must protect these women.
They mop floors, take out the rubbish, walk the dog, buy groceries and care for the children, the elderly or disabled. Many a well-to-do and lower middle class Lebanese family relies on migrant domestic workers to take care of their household, but when it comes to providing for these women, not all return the favour.
Migrant domestic workers – women who work as live-in or freelance housekeepers, cooks, and nannies – form a vital presence in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East, where women’s increased participation in the workforce has not been accompanied by state-backed social or childcare services.
There are thought to be about 200,000 women, mostly from the Philippines, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, in Lebanon alone. But although they are becoming an intrinsic part of the country’s social fabric, their contribution is often overlooked. While many Lebanese people are careful to ensure their housekeepers are well treated, a significant number abuse them. In extreme cases, migrant domestic workers are killed or kill themselves.
The spate of suicides has become so bad in recent weeks it prompted Lebanese blogger Wissam to launch the grimly named Ethiopian Suicides blog. The website is dedicated to monitoring media reports on the deaths of foreign migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. “I have a dream,” Wissam says. “That migrant domestic workers will be treated humanely in Lebanon and will stop trying to commit or commit[ting] suicide.”
In the last three weeks alone, Wissam notes, four Ethiopian women have died. Lebanese police say the deaths of Kassaye Atsegenet, 24, Saneet Mariam, 30, Matente Kebede Zeditu, 26, Tezeta Yalmiya, 26 were probably suicides. But as human rights activists here will testify, the truth about what happened to them may never be known because police usually only take into account the employer’s testimony. Migrants who survive abuse or suicide attempts are not usually provided with a translator, meaning their version of events often does not get registered with officials.
Reflecting the concern of sender countries for the wellbeing of their citizens, Ethiopia and the Philippines have placed bans on working in Lebanon and Jordan, but this has not stemmed the flow of illegal migrants smuggled in through third countries. Without the necessary work papers and embassy support, migrant women become even more vulnerable to human rights abuses.
One reason the women are driven to the edge is that, in Lebanon at least, they are not given protection under the country’s labour law. Such exclusion means that those who withhold salaries, confiscate passports, confine their employees to the house or otherwise abuse them, can literally get away with murder. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that five months after parliamentary elections, a Lebanese government is only now being formed.
The campaign to grant migrant domestic workers greater rights in the region has been led by Human Rights Watch. This summer, it contacted Lebanese beach resorts and found that 17 out of 27 private facilities practised some form of discrimination against such women by prohibiting them from swimming in the pool or even the Mediterranean sea.
A study conducted by the organisation last year found that more than one migrant domestic worker was dying in Lebanon each week – mostly from suspected suicide or by falling off a balcony while trying to escape abusive employers. The numbers sent ripples throughout the rights community and resulted in far more sustained local media coverage on the issue of domestic migrant workers. Judging by Wissam’s recent statistics, however, this does not appear to have persuaded the authorities to take sufficient measures to protect their rights.
The embassies of countries that supply migrant workers have a duty to protect their citizens. They could start by offering amnesty and assistance to all illegal workers, increasing their legal protection capabilities and properly informing women at home of their rights and responsibilities while working abroad. Many countries, such as Nepal or Madagascar, which are sending women to the Middle East in increasing numbers, would do well to increase their diplomatic representation from consular level to embassies.
Many migrant workers come to the Middle East seeking a better life for the families they left behind. The Lebanese themselves have a long history of migration and hardship, and should know first-hand the difficulties of living and working in a foreign country. Just as many Lebanese abroad work hard with the hopes of eventually returning home, the Lebanese should ensure that these women get to go back to their countries – alive and well, not in body bags.
Wednesday night was an almost smoke-free night on Gemmayzeh Street in Beirut. Around 35 pubs and restaurants took part in the “Ain’t No Smoking 2nite” campaign, an initiative by Rotaract Club. Rotaract Club is currently trying to push the authorities “to provide a non smoking section in every pub, bar, restaurant, café or public place” in Lebanon. There’s an online petition that can be signed to support this cause. I didn’t get to go to Gemmayzeh on Wednesday to see the atmosphere first hand, but I came across the following article which I thought I’d share with everyone.
From the Behavioral Health Central
It’s Wednesday night in Gemmayzeh, and busy too: blue clouds loiter above large groups of revelers, bunched up outside clubs and bars on what is usually a quiet night for Beirut’s party hub. Despite the crowds, inside the majority of the many venues the air tonight is unusually clear – because on October 28 there “Ain’t no smoking” in Gemmayzeh.
Some 35 clubs, bars and restaurants throughout the street took part in “Ain’t No Smoking night;” a Rotaract Club initiative to encourage venues to consider regular smoke-free nights, and raise public awareness about the risks of second-hand smoke.
One of the Rotaract Club’s organizers, Patrick, said the objective of the campaign was to give nonsmokers comfortable places to go out and enjoy themselves without having to breathe in second hand smoke.
“It is about rights for nonsmokers” he said, “We hope some of these bars will adopt a weekly nonsmoking night to attract more nonsmokers to the area.”
Abbas, another Rotaract organizer, said that many more pubs and restaurants have participated in the event compared to the last one they threw and noted that lots of people had turned up especially for the smoke-free event. Abbas also said that they have “even found many smokers to be encouraging of this idea and giving us their support!”
Carmen and Mira, two regular smokers standing outside “Mue” agreed with Abbas.
“We think it’s a good idea. We don’t have to suffer the second hand smoke of others,” said the pair. “Even though we smoke ourselves it’s good to get away from such a smoky environment. We hope a permanent ban happens, like many European countries.”
Another smoker added: “It means fewer people will smoke, especially the youngsters.”
However, not everyone on Gemmayzeh agreed.
“I should have the freedom to smoke where I want. If they want to improve people’s health they should install better ventilation systems,” said Rashad, a regular smoker.
It is not just the patrons that hold strong opinions on the issue.
“Personally I hate smoking but our bar cannot afford to force its customers not to smoke on the premises. Wednesday is our busiest night and people do not like change,” said Tony, from the Melting Pot – one of the few bars not participating in the smoke-free night.
“A lot of our customers are heavy smokers and it would be very harmful for business to overlook that fact,” he added.
Not all business owners agreed with Tony’s sentiments. Abir from Olio said that she thought the night was a good initiative.
“Most places in Gemmayzeh don’t have good ventilation and after a long night it can get very annoying breathing in lots of smoke,” she said. “A lot more people would go out if smoking was banned as they would feel more comfortable not having to breathe in passive smoke.”
However, she also noted that considering Lebanon’s strong views on the matter, a ban would be highly unlikely to occur any time within the next five years, at least.
While there were definitely mixed opinions on the subject, most people seemed to enjoy themselves.
In a country known for its heavy consumption of tobacco, most people seemed to adapt to the smoke-free night well and no one tried to break the rules.
The smoke-free bars packed to weekend capacity suggest there may be hope yet for a smoke-free Lebanon. However, for the time being at least, initiatives like this are the closest nonsmokers are going to get.
Yesterday, Ceramics Lounge in Saifi Village, Beirut hosted the Comics on Cermiacs event which included the book signing of Maya Zankoul‘s Amalgam. The event was a great way for people of all ages to meet the woman behind the idea, potentially get her book signed, paint on ceramics with friends and taste the new cookies by Cooki3man! I went there to check out myself and I thought I’d share some photos as well. I hope more socially interactive events of this sort will take place in the future.
I came across this Lebanese ad for the first time today and it made me laugh. This got me thinking about what could potentially be the funniest Lebanese ad out there. If you’ve got one, please don’t hesistate to send it over! We all need a good laugh.
Here is what has most recently been reported in the news on Swine Flu in Lebanon.
From Middle East Online
Lebanon confirmed its first swine flu death on Monday, with the health ministry saying the A(H1N1) virus claimed the life of a pregnant 30-year-old woman.
“The deceased was thirty years old and eight months pregnant,” a ministry statement said, adding that the woman died on Saturday.
The woman had been suffering from respiratory problems and high fever but tests done “before and after the death show she was carrying the new flu virus,” the statement said.
From The Daily Star
[…] International College (IC) announced it would be shutting its middle school in Beirut for six days starting Tuesday because of the high number of students suffering from the virus.
In a letter posted on the school’s website Saturday, IC President John Johnson said 50 students were absent from classes on Friday alone. “To date we have had 31 cases of this influenza in the Ras Beirut Middle School, 12 of whom have already recovered and returned to school,” he said.Johnson said IC was following regulations issued by the Center for Disease Control, which required siblings of swine flu patients to also stay at home for a five-day incubation period. All students are requested to stay at home and avoid contact with classmates until the school reopens on November 2.
From Al Jazeera English
Thousands of people have gathered for protests in more than 180 countries, calling for international action to curb the emissions causing global warming.
The International Day of Climate Action focused on the number 350, referring to 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere which some scientists say must not be exceeded to avoid runaway global warming.
[…] In the Lebanese capital Beirut hundreds of activists, many wearing snorkels, held demonstrations in key archaeological sites.
They gathered around the Roman ruins in central Beirut, in the ancient eastern city of Baalbek and along the coast, carrying placards bearing the logo 350.
“It’s not the first time Beirut will have gone under water,” Wael Hmaidan of the IndyACT group organising Beirut’s protests said, explaining the goggle-wearing. “But this time it’s going down because of climate change, and not earthquakes.”
AFP: Lebanese youths carry a banner bearing the logo “350”, to call for carbon emissions cuts to 350 parts per million