Monday, February 28, 2011

Nasawiya celebrates International Women's Day


Happy International Women’s Day!

On Saturday, March 5 and Sunday, March 6, Nasawiya will be going down to the streets to ask thousands of women what kind of challenges they face in Lebanon and what changes they would like to see. They need tens of volunteers to help us out so if you’re interested, please email farah at right away! We will be live tweeting, blogging, and posting photos and videos so follow @nasawiya and their Facebook page to keep up.

On Tuesday, March 8, they will be marching in groups from various locations in Beirut to a meeting point on the Ain El Mreisse Corniche to Take Back the Night and reclaim the streets from the harassment women face every day. Check out the event on Facebook for updates and join. Let us be many to make our voices heard! Bring your friends, your mothers, your sisters, everyone.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mme Najem is real

Cant seem to get over how strong this video is.
It might sound funny when we hear it but matter of fact us it is SO sad. Everything Mme Najem says IS happening and DOES happen on a daily basis and to MANY and is NO exaggeration at all.
Shankaboot worked real hard on including so many aspects of the traumas migrant domestic workers pass through in Lebanon, and all in one shot.
And this is why this video deserves to be viewed, shared and posted once and twice and more.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Alternative Language Center- Beirut

The center is launched.

Alternative Language Center - Beirut

The Alternative Language Center is a Center in Beirut which offers opportunities for instruction in a number of languages commonly in use in Lebanon but not well-understood by many Lebanese people.

The languages taught include:
-Amharic (from Ethiopia),
-Tamil (from Sri Lanka), and
-Malagasy (from Madagascar).

These languages are spoken by nearly 200 million people worldwide, including around 400,000 in Lebanon (10% of the total population). However, these languages are still not widely spoken among Lebanese people, a fact the Center will attempt to address.

The Alternative Language Center offers private tutoring in each of these languages at competitive, negotiable rates with NATIVE SPEAKER tutors. In addition, we offer courses in cuisine of each of the countries mentioned above.

For placement with a private tutor please inform us and we will happily provide you more information about the classes, the languages, as well our tutors.

The Alternative Language Center is a project of the Migrant Worker Rights Task force, a group committed to improving the situation of Migrant Workers in Lebanon through classes for workers, protests against violence committed against workers, and other means, including instruction in languages commonly used by Migrant Workers. The tutors we employ are all migrant workers and the fees go straight to the tutors- we do not take any commission. Instead, we seek to improve the economic lot of workers through this project.

Nepalese dies

Today, a Nepalese domestic worker was killed. By herself, by someone else, by the slave like conditions she operates under, "because she is crazy", we do not know. What we know for a fact is she is dead now.

Her name is Samoy Wanching Tamang and she was 31 years old and working in Jdaide. The way she died was by hanging herself from a cloth tied to a metal bar in the bedroom of her employer who is 70 years +.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ethiopian "falls"

Yes. Once again.

What does it mean to be writing again and again about similar cases with different names and no solutions?

Last week, an Ethiopian allegedly fell from the 7th floor in Cola, around Mal3ab elbaladi. She was a freelancer with no papers and was living with other paperless Sudanese and Ethiopian workers. To know what exactly happened, how she fell, why she fell, we need to talk to other witnesses. All other people who were with her in the house are now detained in prison. So figure that one out.

Police say they arrived to the house because/ after she fell and then detained the others. Non-police stories says police came to pick them all up and  she fell in their presence.

They say she fell at 430 AM. She arrived to hospital at 630 AM and died afterwards. What exactly was the body doing in the 2 prior hours?

The story was no where to be found on news.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

عفواً كاريتاس

Nadine Moawad writes in SawtalNiswa:

تفشت في شوارع بيروت هذا الشهر إعلانات لحملة كاريتاس لحماية حقوق العامل الأجنبي في لبنان. تنوعت شعاراتها بين “عامليها منيح، بتعاملك من كل قلبها” و “الإنسان إنسان لو مين ما كان.”

تغيظني وبشدة هذه الحملات الفارغة وأراها تهين العاملات بالعنصرية ذاتها التي تُعامَلن بها في المنازل. لماذا نطلب بكل هذا التهذيب والطفولية من اللبنانيين أن يحسنوا معاملة العاملات كأنه عمل خيري؟ كأنه يتوجب علينا تبرير المطلب؟ عيب.
أقترح على كاريتاس (بما أنني لا أملك تمويل أوروبي لأنشر مئات الإعلانات في شوارع بيروت) إستعمال التصميم التالي بديلاً.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

العنصرية في لبنان ما بتستثني حدا

صباح ذلك اليوم، حضر الطلاب كعادتهم إلى الجامعة حيث لم يكن النهار يوحي بخبر سوء. بعد ساعات قليلة، علا الصراخ داخل حرم الكلية، وبدأ الخبر يتسلل شيئاً فشيئاً: إشكال بين طالبين. بعد قليل، بدأت تتّضح الصورة التي يرويها المعتصمون: «طالب لبناني يسحب طالباً سورياً من القاعة على عين الدكتور ويضربه ضرباً مبرّحاً». تناسى الطلاب، كما يقولون، ما حصل، وحضروا إلى الكلية لإجراء امتحاناتهم التي غادروها، بعدما تهجّم بعض الطلاب عليهم «بالسكاكين»، على حد تعبيرهم.
قد يبدو الحدث عابراً، لو أنه حدث للمرة الأولى، لكن «ثمة سوابق»، يشير محمد، المتحفّظ عن ذكر اسمه الكامل خوفاً «من علقة». يدخل الطالب في تفاصيل العلاقة بين اللبنانيين والسوريين في الكلية، فيشير إلى أن «الضرب هو أحد أساليب التعامل مع الطلاب السوريين، لكن ليس وحده، فهناك، مثلاً، الخوّة التي تفرض على الطلاب في بعض الأحيان والسرقات والبلطجة، ومجلس فرع الطلاب يمارس عمل العصابات». يكمل زملاؤه بقية الأساليب، فيقول أحدهم «ضربت العنصرية الإدارة، إذ إن الطلاب السوريين لا يملكون بطاقات جامعية».

Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking for Volunteer Teachers and more

We kicked off yesterday with the first language class under the Migrant Workers Task Force. We had a very good start and first session. For those that were not there we were around 10 volunteers and 20 students from Ethiopia, Philippines, Sudan, Madagascar etc. The next class will be next Sunday from 12:00 - 14:00 at T-marbouta.

The classes
We decided that students will be grouped off into their language groups once they arrive: Arabic, French and English. Each language will have a coordinator who will assist in further pairing off students with teachers depending on their level as well as leading some group activities (ice-breakers etc). Each teacher will then go through exercises with their students before returning to the group to present or conclude the class.

We also decided to have one module each month (this means 4 classes). Alex will be in charge of laying out lesson plans with supporting materials and exercises. The first module will be "daily greetings and conversations". Teaching method will be conversation focused. We want to improve vocabulary and grammar within the context of the class (i.e. shopping). The materials for each class should be made available online so each volunteer could access before the class for some preparation.

VolunteersWe need volunteers to teach:
English for French speakers
English for Arabic and other speakers
Arabic for English speakers
French for English speakers

Volunteers will need to take responsibility of checking the curriculum before the class and come to class prepared. Volunteers should email the language coordinator for the language they want to teach (see below) before the class and receive information. Please let us know the languages you speak and your level of commitment.

Language coordinatorsEnglish: Janie -
Arabic: Alex/Ali -
French: Lioba -

We also discussed the issue of space and decided while we continue looking for a larger and well-located teaching space we will stay at T-marbouta.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Debating Workshop for Activists

After the success of last week's session, Nasawiya is hosting another Debating Workshop for activists/ activists to be on Sunday 27-02-2011 by Dutch Debating Champion Ali al-Jaberi. The workshop is offered to you (free of charge) by the organization of the Israeli Apartheid Week with the aim of strengthening the activist community in Lebanon.

Much of what you do as an activist is about trying to get a logical message across persuasively. It is therefore important to be a good debater, i.e to master the art of convincing others of a particular point of view using logical arguments. The workshop helps you to learn this skill and apply it in your work as an activist. A*fter the workshop you will know how to:*

-structure and deliver a speech eloquently
-control your nerves and speak confidently
-construct persuasive, logical arguments
-explain alternative views to a mainstream audience

The workshop deals with:
Presentation techniques, such as the use of body language and how to stay cool under pressure.
Constructing and structuring logical arguments to defend or attack a particular point of view. Here you also learn how to uncover and rebut logical fallacies in the case of your opponent. The basic technique learn here is the way to argue in any discussion. Be it political, like whether or not religious parties should be allowed. Moral, for example, should abortion be morally acceptable? Or professional, helping you to find the pros and cons of a particular decision related to your work.
There will be a lot of practice during the workshop, for mastering a skill depends on exactly that. The workshop is exercise-based, offering challenging exercises that allows you to apply what you learnt.
After each exercise you receive personal feedback, enabling you to immediately raise your skill-level.

*Details: Sunday 27-02-2011 / from 15:00 to 18:00  plz be on time! / at Nasawiya House (

*Please reserve no later than 26-2-2011 as there is limited space!* For more information and reservations:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

White Hands Campaign

Why oh please tell me why do we always conscioulsy and unconsciously refer to good things, in this case, good campaigns as white? When will we stop using the term white as a positive general adjective rather than a color? Oh tell me when.

Friday, February 18, 2011

تعميم صور عاملة متّهمة بالسرقة

Lebanese security forces doing what they are best at... Wrong things.

Today, Al-Akhbar reported that the picture of a domestic worker from Bangladesh was publicized. Reason being that she is "said" to have robbed her employers of a funny amount of 45,000 USD, gold and other things.

In theory, a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Well, not in the case of a Bangali domestic worker in Lebanon. Definitely not.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another "mysterious" death

“Our Migrante chapters in the Middle East have recorded 15 cases of ‘mysterious’ deaths involving OFWs, mostly women, since 2008. Their respective families are not discounting the possibility of foul play leading to their deaths. As far as we are concerned, these are not yet closed or solved,” Monterona said.
Monterona cited the following cases of mysterious deaths of OFWs:

-- Rowena Peremne Arceo, 33, of Cordillera province, who died October 22, 2008, in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia; unsolved case.
-- Joy Cabansi Sarto, 28, of Echague, Isabela province, allegedly murdered by her Arab employer on Sept. 22, 2009; unsolved case.
-- Eugenia Baja, 24, holder of passport number SS0428627; initial reports said she committed suicide, but an autopsy report revealed that Baja bore stab wounds and bruises; unsolved case.
-- Analyn de Pena, 33, of Old Sta. Mesa, Manila, who allegedly committed suicide sometime in November 2009, but her family believes there was foul play; unsolved case.
-- Marilou Macam Ating, 37, of Lingayen, Pangasinan; sketchy reports reaching her family stated that she died after she fell from the fourth floor of her employer’s residence. Family believes there was foul play leading to her death on November 24, 2008; unsolved case.
-- From February to August 2009, the Migrante chapter in Dubai has already recorded seven cases of mysterious deaths of OFWs. These include Roderick Miranda, who reportedly hanged himself on February 4; Norayda Ayuman, who reportedly jumped from the seventh floor of a building on February 6; Jeffrey Alberto So, who reportedly jumped from the third floor of a building on June 13; and Evelyn Lilo, who allegedly jumped from a building on August 10. All these cases remain unsolved.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

صح النوم معالي الوزير

Harb acknowledged that he had earlier doubted the veracity of reports about the widespread mistreatment of foreign domestic workers, believing them to be part of a conspiracy to demean Lebanon’s image – before he became minister of labor.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feminist Quarells

An interesting read on how there are tons of other "isms" we live with not just sexism, racism, and classism but also fatism, thinism and more.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, working in the early 1800s, developed a concept called the Other. The idea is that one way the sense of self is developed is through  what he or she is not. The concept is often used to explain racism and sexism. Here, it comes into play because both the large and the small women are struggling to make the other side the Other. They’re forcing them into this bad societal role, depicting them in a bad way while making their group look good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ramblings of an angry student

Usually when students enter a class for the first time at the beginning of the semester they ask “is this XX 201?” then they will take a seat and ask their colleagues is she/he a good professor… expect for this special class at this special university in this special country, where students will ask “is he really black?!”.

Actually while asking some colleague if he would recommend this class the answer was (with a laugh) the professor is black (to put it in a somehow acceptable term). Is this really 2011 or is it 1102?

Is it our thing as Lebanese to discriminate against everything, gender, nationality, religion and race? Are those the new rebels, is this the generation that was suppose to rebuild Lebanon. Is this the open minded “the world is village “generation? Are those the same progressive people nagging all the time how old style their parents are?

You might be devil’s advocate and say that this question is out of fear that the professor will have a heavy accent… well in that case advise your client to simply ask “does he really have an accent?”

Friday, February 11, 2011

محتجز تعسّفاً منذ 8 أشهر

عانى ثائر الاحتجاز التعسفي لمدة تزيد على ثمانية أشهر بسبب «إصرار الإدارة على عدم تنفيذ أحكام القضاء، وعلى إبقاء الأجانب محتجزين بعد انقضاء محكومياتهم، دون أيّ سند قانوني»، كما ورد في بيان صدر عن «روّاد فرونتيرز» يوم أمس.

ولفتت الجمعية الحقوقية إلى أنّ «ثائر لم يعد قادراً على احتمال احتجازه المطوّل غير المحدد المدة»، لذا وقّع أخيراً مذكّرة ترحيله الى العراق ظنّاً منه أن ذلك يخلّصه من الاحتجاز، ومفضّلاً بذلك خطر الموت في بلده على عدّ أيام لا تنتهي في نظارة الأمن العام. مصدر في المديرية العامة للأمن العام شدّد أمس على استحالة فكّ احتجاز أشخاص ليست بحوزتهم أوراق ثبوتية قانونية تخوّلهم الإقامة في لبن.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Migrant Workers Task Force Updates

The updates for the MWTF group are as follows:

-Language Classes
Classes to be taught each Sunday in Hamra for Arabic, English, and French (and maybe computer). First class will be February 20 at 1230 PM. T Marbouta kindly offered their library space.

- Poster Translations
So far, we got Malagasy, English, Tagalog and Ethiopian.
If anything is added by today, it is good to go. Anything we do not get by today, we will go on without it at this stage. Please someone translate to proper Arabic and French and send me so I print.
Farah will be printing and photocopying the papers. We need to post them up in Hamra, Bourj Hammoud and Dawra by Saturday maximum so they are up and readable by this Sunday.

- Weekly Meeting
We will have our last meeting next Wednesday at 530 at Nasawiya. After that, we will make our weekly meetings every Sunday before or after class. We will look into that.

- Guide book idea
Will be put on hold for now.

- Organizational issue
We currently have 3 running initiatives on board: vigils, marches, classes. So as not to spam people who are not interested in all of them with emails, we will create 2 new google groups for the vigils and the marches. For people who want to be on those groups, let me know so I add you. This would keep the MWTS group specifically for language classes related issues and a space to propose new ideas.

We will have coordinators for each initiative. So if you have a question about something in specific, you know who to ask.
March- Alex
Vigils- Ali
Classes- Janie

- Vigils
The initial idea was to target the homes of migrant workers who have been abused, murdered, or have committed suicide in the Beirut area with vigils and information so as to stigmatize this violence and inform communities about its presence.
Vigils are protests that happen right after, hopefully 1 day after, a migrant worker dies (killed, suicide, regardless).
If the location the death happens is accessible to people, we will have the protest under the employer's house/ agency.

If it is far away, we will have it somewhere symbolic in Hamra which so far will be the Ministry of Interior.

We came up with the most brilliant idea in the meeting *light bulb* which is that we need to create our own symbolic space. What will it be? Just like we have tons of statues around the country for different "martyr" politicians in Lebanon (who all happen to be male martyrs because our history never included any female martyrs but that is another topic:)), we decided that it is high time we change the formula for this and we create the statue for the "unknown female migrant domestic worker" (just like the unknown soldier).

So the priority now goes to finding a brilliant artist who is willing to work on doing this project on the spot. When we have this statue, it will be a moving statue which we take with us to each vigil we do (until one day in the future, Lebanon accepts to let us put that statue up somewhere forever to honor all those who have died on Lebanese soil with no one to investigate their deaths ro remember their many names). The statue will be the thing that will create meaning for us to be protest on a specific location. So next time we have a vigil, we will say next to the statue (we need a name for it) in Hamra or Ash or Korniche for instance, and people go there and search for it. When they find the statue, they find the place for the vigil.

But until we do that, Ministry of Interior is our space.

- Marches
The difference between marches and vigils, is that we do not know how many vigils we might do. It might be one every 2 weeks or one every 6 months (I hope but doubt). Vigils happens as a reaction to a case. Marches will happen regardless of the death toll. We will decide to have them lets say every 1st Sunday of the month or something like that.
They will be a walking protest to highlight the situation, specifically also in terms of uninvestigated deaths of migrant workers. We will build a symbolic coffin and walk with it. So the idea is to have a trumpet funeral march around Hamra, a couple of people holding the coffin (and names are always being added to that coffin), someone with the trumpet, someone putting out fliers, and someone talking to people. We will work on the coffin next Wednesday meeting.

- Tasks
Putting posters up for classes
Confirmation on who is coming to classes
Finding an artist
Finding a trumpet guy/girl

If you would like to join any of the present initiatives, ask questions or suggest ideas, please write us at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Useful Numbers for MDWs in Lebanon

Compiled from Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon blog

Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center
Hotline: 03-092538/ 03-290066
Telephone: 01-502550/1/2/3/4

Kafa Organization
Hotline: 03-018019

Philippines Embassy
Hotline: 03-859430 and 03-988207

Non Resident Nepalese Association
President: Dipendra Uprety
Telephone: 01-352274; 03-951260

Voice of Charity Radio Program
Organization: Afro-Asian Migrant Center, out of the St. Joseph Catholic Church
Radio stations: 87.5 FM, 105.8 FM, 106.2 FM
The program includes a reading of the gospels, announcements of activities, and advice to listeners in different languages.

Afro Asian Migrant Center
Contact Person: Father Martin McDermott; Father Theo Vlugt, S.J. at 01-332601
Location: St. Joseph Church, University San Joseph (USJ), off Monot Street, Tabaris/Ashrafiye

Education Center and Medical Clinic in Nabaa
Contact Person: Pastor Said Deeb, Church of God in Mansourieh at 03-763744

Buddhist Prayer Meeting
Leader: Chandrani at 70-620987
Insan School in Nabaa
Contact Person: Lala Arabian

Madagascar Prayer Meeting/ Location: NEST in Hamra
Contact Person: Aimee Raz. at 70-868253

Association for Filipina- Lebanese couples and children
Contact: Ms. Rose Karout at 03-364-454

Ethiopian Full Gospel Church in Boushrieh
Nail salon for Jesse, a former migrant domestic worker
Location: Hamra, next to the Napoleon hotel
Phone: 03-637056 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Collected position papers of women in Egypt, Tunisia (and the uprising countries to follow)

As massive demonstrations continue to sweep across  Egypt, and protests spread throughout the Arab countries, you might have been wondering, like I was, where are the women? Prominent early video and photos of demonstrations — first in Tunis, then Lybia now in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, showed angry young people standing up to police and army — heads wrapped in kuffiyyas, throwing rocks at police, covering their eyes from teargas.  And the women? We were absent from news footage, and political critique that reached us in the opening days.

Since, major US and European news outlets have begun  printing photographs of women. Women kissing army officers, women throwing rocks at a line of riot police, women standing on tanks.

As we all wait to see what the next days hold – it is important to remember that social and economic issues ARE women’s issues. As Egyptian feminist  and former presidential candidate Nawal al Saadawi said  yesterday on the US radio program “Democracy Now,” Women and girls are beside boys in the streets… calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system.” Gains in political freedom are as important to women as they are to men. And, although we infrequently see and hear from women during these critical historical moments (and much less so once the dust has settled, and new governing systems are put in place) women’s work and presence is critical to any step forward.

I am not making essentialist arguments about women’s unique sensitivity. Nor am I arguing that having a few women in key positions of power is a gain for “women’s rights” (US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been supporting the Egyptian government all along, is after all a woman).

I am simply asking that we recall that revolutions are notorious for using women’s images, bodies, and labor in the heat of the moment - and then later reproducing the same systematic exclusion of women lived in earlier regimes. (See for instance the Algerian Revolution, Black Power in the United States, protests by Tobacco Regie workers in Lebanon from the 40′s to the present)

A new political leadership is insufficient, in Egypt or elsewhere, without a comprehensive new arrangement of political power. This means in addition to political and economic changes that make it possible for Egyptians to live and work in Egypt, guaranteeing protection from rape and domestic violence,  the ability to pass nationality onto our children and husbands, and real equality of access to education, political institutions, and economic opportunities.

While I also got excited about pictures of Egyptian women published in the press (yes, in fact we Arab women do stand up for our own rights), it’s not enough to look at look at them yelling. Let’s try listening to some actual Egyptian and Tunisian women’s voices.

Below you will find some statements of women’s groups from Egypt, Tunis.


Please send along more as you find them! And in an internationalist spirit, I leave you with a Position Paper put out by  Women in the Young Lord’s Party, a Puertoriccan liberation movement active in New York and Chicago in the US in the 60′s-80′s.
Forward to Sisters in Struggle.

*Compiled by Mary Jirmanus

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lebanon: as a factory of racism

"My name is Hassan and I am from Homs. I lived in Beirut for some time before leaving to Canada where I still live and study English. I faced so much racism in Lebanon, especially when I tell Lebanese I am from Homs because of all their lousy jokes.I like your blog and the fact that you criticize those Lebanese tendencies. I want to share with you the following link about Steve Jobs' biological dad who is originally from Homs and was a comrade of George Habash at AUB:  
I hope this will prove to all those racists that the phones they use are made by a man whose genes are from Homs. 
PS. Canada gave me education and Lebanon showed me an ugly face of racism that I will never forget"