March 13, 2012

Filmed abuse of Ethiopian domestic worker sparks outrage (VIDEO)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The filmed abuse of an Ethiopian domestic worker in Lebanon has drawn widespread condemnation and thrown light onto a persistent problem of living and working conditions of the estimated 200,000 migrants in the country. The video depicts a woman lying on the ground outside the Ethiopian consulate before a group of men drag her against her will into a car. She is quoted as saying in Amharic "I will not go," GlobalVoices wrote.
The man beating the woman, pulling her hair, and shoving her into the car was identified by the Lebanese Broadcasting Company as Ali Mahfouz, NewsDire wrote.

The Lebanese cabinet condemned the abuse and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, the Daily Star reported. The Ethiopian consulate in Beirut has not received the security protection it has repeatedly requested from Lebanese authorities, the paper wrote.

The comments section on the YouTube video has been filled with condemnation of the man and the actions. The video reportedly made wide rounds among Ethiopian Facebook users. NOW Lebanon translated the exchange between bystanders, who were encouraging the man to leave the maid alone.

An editorial on the Lebanese news website bemoaned that "we still suffer from a crude racism, and the world is catching on to our grubby secret."

Ethiopia banned economic migration to Lebanon in 2008, according to The Daily Star, after it "probed the human right violations and domestic violence Ethiopian migrants face behind closed doors in Beirut while employed as maids." But many women still travel to Lebanon to look for work because demand remains strong. Scores of domestic workers have died or been killed by their employers in Lebanon over the past decade. 

Last month, a Sri Lankan domestic worker allegedly killed her employer. Al Akhbar English reported that the deceased's husband did not know the maid's name, “because it is a strange name that is difficult to memorize.” A Lebanese security official told the website, "What we understood from her is that she was not content with working at the victim's house."

A study by Kafa, a Lebanon-based rights group, reported on nine maid suicides that occurred in August 2010. Most jumped from balconies of apartment towers or hanged themselves. Over the past two months, at least four maids have committed suicide in Lebanon, the Daily Star wrote.

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