We celebrated Mother’s day on March 21 but it also happens to be the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and on this day, MARCH Lebanon invited us to remember the thousands of mothers that came from around the world to work in Lebanon and support their families. There are over 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon coming from the Philippines, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Ethiopia and working under horrible conditions that sometimes border on modern day slavery. In the past week only, two domestic workers committed suicide yet we barely heard about them or knew why they decided to end their life.
Unfortunately and despite the fact that racism in Lebanon is still widespread, the real problem has always been in the Kafala (Sponsorship) system that hasn’t been abolished yet and allows agencies and households to enslave the domestic workers and mistreat them. KAFA Lebanon once followed the journey of a migrant domestic worker (from Nepal and Bangladesh) from recruitment to working and shed the light on some alarming facts and stats. To list few:
– 69% of domestic workers either borrow money or sell their properties to cover the recruitment and travel fees to Lebanon.
– 96% of domestic workers reported that their passports were confiscated by their employer.
– 64% of the women worked more than 15 hours a day.
– 62% of the workers reported experiencing verbal abuse, 36% reported physical abuse and 8% reported sexual abuse.
We need to end the sponsorship system and give domestic workers the same rights as any foreign worker. It’s about time we stop racism against domestic workers and all foreign workers and refugees in Lebanon. Having said that, we can only hope that this Mother’s day will be the last sad one for Lebanon’s foreign domestic workers but their fight is a long one.
Joumana Haddad is Lebanese journalist, activist, poet, instructor, author and the head of the cultural pages for An Nahar newspaper, as well as the editor-in-chief of Jasad magazine, a controversial Arabic magazine specialized in the literature and arts of the body. She’s an exceptional woman that speaks seven languages and was recently ranked among the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women in 2015.
Joumana was supposed to fly to Bahrain on the 6th of April to attend a cultural event, however an online campaign (#البحرين_لا_ترحب_بالملحدين) was started against her visit and as a result, she was denied entrance because she’s an atheist and a threat to society. How is being an atheist a threat to society? Unless Joumana chops heads off and trains terrorists while pretending to write poetry, I think that’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard of.
In all cases, it’s their loss as any country should be proud of having women like Joumana Haddad.
Greg Demarque from Executive Magazine interviewed five Lebanese women defying gender stereotypes and working in professions heavily dominated by men. Elsy Abou Zeid is a Mechanical Technician at Volvo, Cynthia Bitar is the owner and executive chef at Nazira Catering, Rola Hoteit works as a MEA pilot, Nancy Arbid is an aerospace engineer and Diana Salameh is a winemaker at Domaine Wardy.
Check out the full article [here] and let’s hope that we won’t be needing an International Women’s Day to recognize the importance of women and acknowledge their rights.
Instead of tackling homosexuality in Lebanon in an objective and scientific matter, OTV decided to promote the show by asking whether homosexuality is a fashion trend or an illness. In order to be fair, I did bother and watch the show and while the doctors and Pierre Bou Saab were mostly spot on and made sense, the host kept asking the wrong questions and making wrong assumptions and over-generalizing.
Homosexuality is not a trend nor an illness and people don’t choose to become gay. While people are affected by environmental and social factors, almost everyone agrees that sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice, and even if it did, no one is entitled to judge others based on that or call it an illness. Moreover, I don’t know why she assumed that more Lebanese recently are rejecting this “weird phenomenon” as she calls it. There aren’t any studies or surveys to prove that and if that’s the case, awareness is much needed then. We shouldn’t portray gay people as being different or weird and we should help them in their struggle against ignorance and hatred.
On another note, the host didn’t even know what LGBT stands for and thought it was a cool term gay people use nowadays. She also said biosexual instead of bisexual in the first part (Between Minute 3:20 and 3:35) and the doctor corrected her. I’m glad she didn’t bring any religious people but the show didn’t send out the right message and promoting it the way they did was a bad move.
Here’s the [first part] for those interested in watching.
Four years ago, the Happiness Heroes helped students from schools all across Lebanon to become socially aware at a younger age and encouraged principals to become more socially responsible and environment-friendly. This year, Picon’s Machrou3 el Jil el Jadeed initiative was launched to empower young Lebanese students, encourage them to serve their community by presenting their creative ideas and showing what they are capable of.
As you all know, our country has no electricity, no proper internet, a bad water-management policy, no proper infrastructure or means of transportation, lousy roads and no urban planning. Since our government is unable to fix any of these things, why don’t we give kids a chance to present their ideas to fix the country and maybe implement some of them?
Of course students wouldn’t know how to come up with project plans and that’s why a workshop was organized where students took part in discussions and listened to motivational speeches, and worked on developing their innovative ideas with the help of professionals. After going through all submissions, five great ideas will be selected for every region and the public will be able to vote for the best idea through Facebook and Picon website. At the end of the voting period, there will be one winning idea, which will be implemented in all five regions in coordination with municipalities and trained professionals.
This initiative reminded me a bit of the movie Pay It Forward where a young boy tries to make the world a better chance and launches a good-will movement all because of an assignment given in class. Who knows? Maybe one of the ideas proposed will be a brilliant one and make an impact on our society.
Check out this fun video done with George Khabbaz and you can read more about this initiative [here].
Picture taken from Al Akhaa Ahli Aley Football Team Archive
This picture, which was shared by Hazem al Amin today, pretty much sums up how the Syrian Civil War has spilled over into Lebanon. It shows two Lebanese football players Ahmad Diab and Hussein el Amin celebrating a goal back in 2013 in a game against Ansar club.
Few months after this game, Ahmad Diab committed a terrorist suicide bombing while Hussein went to Syria to fight with Hezbollah. Both were members of the same football team and used to fight together to win every game, yet somehow turned into sworn enemies in a fight that is not even ours.
The judge in charge of Yves Nawfal’s murder has recommended the death penalty for six people and sentences ranging from three to 20 years for the others, before referring the case to the Criminal Court in Baabda. I know it’s still a bit early for the court’s final judgment but Yves’ killers will probably get the death penalty for what they’ve done.
Personally speaking, I’ve always been against capital punishment and I wish they would abolish it in Lebanon and replace it with a sentence for perpetuity. Taking away someone’s life as a punishment should not be a legal option, even if the murderer is a ruthless bastard. Killing Yves’ murderers won’t bring him back to life but instead give them publicity that they don’t deserve. Moreover, applying the death penalty can be arbitrary and politicized and you can’t undo a mistake once you discover a man has been executed for a crime he did not commit. Last week, a wrongly jailed man accused of the rape and murder of mother of four in the US got $6M award after he had spent 21 years in jail. All in all, I am sure there are many arguments against capital punishment, mainly ethical and religious one, but for me, killing should not be a way of punishment and that’s about it. Also, jailing someone for 20-30 years is a tougher punishment in my opinion that taking away his life.
A video spotted on Facebook showing a father beating his children violently – However I don’t understand how death penalty could be an answer to such an act.
Of course some may argue that there’s corruption everywhere in Lebanon, specially in prisons, and the only way to make sure murderers stay in prison or get punished is by executing them, but I am sure there are other means to do so. In all cases, Yves’ murderers deserve to stay in prison for a very long time and I hope they do.
A survey was conducted by Sakker el Dekkene in order to evaluate the attitude of Lebanese citizens towards corruption and their willingness to compromise on their principles and bribe officials. 7810 doors were knocked and 4873 persons were contacted to obtain a sample of 1200 respondents across the entire country and the results were as follows:
– 62% of the Lebanese population would not wait in line
– 25% of the population would certainly compromise on values and principles to reach material objectives.
– 38% of the population would go around a queue.
Corruption and Age:
– Youth are more willing to make compromising choices than older generations.
– 30% of those aged 55 and above admit that they would seek outside interference against a police officer doing his job.
– 62% of those aged 18 to 24 would call for interference against a law enforcement officer on duty.
Corruption and income level/political identity:
– 38% of the higher income level respondents say they will sure bribe to get a public servant’s signature to avoid delay (vs 16% of lowest income level).
– There’s no difference between political sides with regard to corruption
Perceived Corruption levels in public institutions:
– Only 14% of the population fully trusts the judiciary. When asked why, 64% of the respondents mentioned spontaneously political interference, and 49% mentioned corruption.
– 93% of the respondents consider corruption widespread at the port and 86% in the cadaster.
– The least corrupt institution is the Lebanese Army.
– Public opinion locates corruption in Port, Vehicle Registration, Cadaster, Ministry of Finance and the legal sector as top targets.
All in all, half the citizens are willing to report corruption, as long as it does not backfire on them, and as long as it leads to results. I think the most worrying figure is the fact that the younger generation is more willing to compromise on its principles. It is our duty to report bribes and put an end to corruption and Sakker el Dekkene is providing a platform to do so.
Check out their [website] and make good use of it.
I am sure you all opened that post to check out how someone can dance and smoke arguile at the same time, but the aim was to shed the light on a Facebook page “Sa2afetna” launched recently and aimed at bringing back our true culture and encouraging people to make a difference and share the stories that matter most. Of course it doesn’t hurt to share fun videos from time to time but the problem is when media rely on such videos and clickbaits to boost their views instead of creating proper content and sharing fun and silly videos from time to time.
Civil marriage in Lebanon was dealt a setback last week after Interior Minister Machnouk’s statement. During an interview on Kalam Ennas, Machnouk said that he doesn’t encourage legalizing civil marriage and that “Cyprus is not too far”. Legally speaking, couples can still get married in a civil way in Lebanon but their wedding won’t be registered as long as the minister refuses to sign them, which is problematic for them and more importantly for their children. Surprisingly enough, Minister Machnouk was at some point in favor of civil marriage but for some reason changed his position. I hope we can still count on Saad Hariri’s support whenever he comes back.
The ever-growing influence of religious authorities and the lack of officials brave enough to take the initiative and legitimize civil marriage in Lebanon are still the main obstacles and I honestly don’t see any changes happening anytime soon.
Here’s a reminder on the steps to follow to get a civil marriage in Lebanon:
– Go to a mayor and fill in a request to strike off your sect from your ID.
– Submit the form at the personal status directorate of your region
– Get a proof of address (إفادة سكن) for you and your spouse.
– Perform medical tests for you and your spouse and get witnesses for your wedding.
– Afterwards, you need to post a memo on your new house’s door stating that you are getting marriage in a civil way and asking people to contest the marriage if they have a valid reason. Once done, you can go sign your marriage contract at your notary public!