Friday, March 20, 2015

Yet another domestic worker commits suicide in Lebanon

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“Malika Begum, a domestic worker from Bangladesh, was found hanging in her room”, the Daily Star reports.

There we go again. Another migrant domestic worker committed suicide. It happened yesterday, in Tripoli, Lebanon’s largest northern city.

But of course, no one talked about it. Social media’s usual criers didn’t shed a tear. Didn’t make a sound. Didn’t write a word. Why bother? There was no shocking SMS advert sent to their phones. The news didn’t create the buzz on the net. So in the grand tradition of Lebanese indignation, where human misery is used to promote our own ego on social media, this suicide story is just another bore. The weekend is coming, and selfies in restaurants are far more important.

No buzz no cries.

What’s even more disturbing is that not many Lebanese media outlets reported Malika Begum’s suicide. Not even the ones claiming to be the champions of Human Rights.

Until when are we going to accept that unacceptable reality? Until when Lebanon is going to remain plagued by racism? Until when the mistreatment of migrant domestic workers is going to remain unpunished?

Is there no hope on the horizon? Perhaps there is.

Commenting on my previous blog post “What? There’s human trade in Lebanon?”, Mugs, a fellow blogger, writes: “Among the darkness of the story you tell, there are little spots of light. Female domestic workers are beginning to use mobile phones and social media to organize and protect themselves (e.g. NARI Group of Nepalese Feminists in Lebanon, FENASOL), although many workers have to take big risks just to get a SIM or airtime and need to conceal their phones 24x7. The embassies of some countries (e.g. Philippines) do take protection of their workers seriously, though many do not. Migrant outreach and support services are being provided in Lebanon through centers (e.g. Migrant Community Centre Beirut and Caritas), but they need much more funding and support. The voices of domestic workers trapped without rights are being documented and published (e.g. KAFA, Human Right Watch) with other reports being prepared by international bodies seeking to design interventions to improve the situation.”

These organizations should be saluted for their courage and determination in a country where racism is as common as a hommos plate in a mezzé dinner. And where politicians are too busy fighting over their share of the sour cake that is Lebanon.

Rest in peace, Malika Begum...

© Claude El Khal, 2015     


Anonymous said...

Rest in peace Malika... you took your sad story with you.

philippe sater said...

Sadly, it's not only in Lebanon. The BBC reported in november that 36M people worldwide were held as slaves, 2.1M of which were in the Middle East and North Africa. []
Information is key in this battle, thanks for keeping Lebanon in the conversation. Keep on.