Kicking, slapping, felling hair: On June 17, a Lebanese soldier attacked two young Kenyan women workers in Bourj Hammoud, a neighborhood in southern Beirut. The incident was filmed… and yet it is the young workers who are facing deportation today, laments by our Observer.
The scene takes place on June 17, at 6 pm, in a street in Bourj Hammoud, an outlying area of Beirut. The video posted by the page “Weyniyyé El-dawlé” [in French “Where is the State?” Editor’s note] lasts two minutes.
One man can be seen catching two black women by the hair. He strikes them several times before being joined by two other men and a woman.
They put themselves to several and beat, blow young women. The man catches the two women by the hair and shakes them. After several seconds, a group of passers-by intervenes and tries to stop the aggression.
Violently, this video provoked a wave of indignation on social networks, most of which condemned the brutality of the aggressor and the indifference of passers-by.
Struck by the car, they collapsed on the ground
According to an investigation by the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour, the attacker is a soldier and owns a café in the neighborhood.
The soldier was in his car with his wife and children and have turned his way towards the two women, according to witnesses of the scene. He struck them by the car, the young women collapsed on the floor, they latter, domestic workers, ran errands in the neighborhood.
The two victims were then taken to the neighborhood police station. According to the account obtained by the ARM (Anti-Racist Movement), a local association for the defense of foreign workers, the investigator stated that domestic workers “will be expelled from the country because they have no papers”. The domestic workers complained of beatings and assult. The file has been transferred to the military court.
“In Lebanon, xenophobia has never been so strong”
For Farah Salka, director of the Anti-Racist Movement, this act confirms the institutional nature of racism in Lebanon.
Unfortunately, such incidents have become regular in Lebanon, where xenophobia has never been stronger. In this case, and according to the information gathered, the man wanted to attack the two migrants for the simple reason that they were foreigners.
Justice then turned against them rather than the aggressors, on the grounds that they do not have proper papers.
However, it is known that most domestic workers are confiscated their residence permit by their former employers or former sponsors. It is a vicious circle for foreign women workers who face both individual and state abuse. And for main cause: the system of kafala.
A union of domestic workers created in 2015… but few changes
Lebanon is home to nearly 250,000 women workers, mainly from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines. As in the Gulf countries, these employees are subject to the kafala system. The employer sponsors an employee who will work for him for a predefined period.
The “kafils” are responsible for welcoming them, drafting their contracts and regulating the visa requirements. They play the role of “sponsors”, a necessary step to be allowed to work in the country.
A “kafil” can be both the employer, or a company specifically dedicated to the sponsorship of these employees. This system makes them dependent on their sponsor: when the worker arrives on Lebanese territory, she gives her, her passport throughout the duration of her contract. This leads to many abuses on the part of employers.