Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kuwaiti woman gets death for maid murder

Very sad to say, but this is a historic day for Kuwait and this region as a whole. May others follow through.

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Kuwait City: Kuwait’s supreme court upheld Monday a death sentence against a woman for murdering her Filipina maid after torturing her, and confirmed a 10-year sentence on her disabled husband.

The ruling is final and cannot be challenged but could be commuted to a life term by the ruler of the Gulf state. Executions in Kuwait are carried out by hanging.

The Kuwaiti woman was convicted of premeditated murder based on evidence that she had regularly tortured her maid before driving over her in a remote desert area.

The husband was handed the jail term for “assisting her,” according to a copy of the ruling.

Full piece on GulfNews
In arabic here

Monday, November 25, 2013

Loving Lebanon?

The Beirut Report- Habib Battah



The Kataeb party has been draping the highways in preparation for their annual event. The canvas reads: "Love Lebanon? Don't Love Any Other"

But if the Kataeb loves Lebanon so much, why have they covered the essential highway exit signs? Is promoting the party more important than public safety?

Covering highway signs should be illegal, so what type of signal is the Kateab sending its supporters/foes? This is our highway and we can do whatever we want with it? Or the public's right to driving safely and finding directions comes a distant second to self-promotion and propaganda?

Then there is the message. "Don't Love Any Other"

What type of medieval rhetoric is that? Why would we not want to love others? This sounds like a very xenophobic discourse as pointed out by my friend Farah. Is the subtext hate Syria and the Syrians, hate Palestine and the Palestinians, she asks. 

Like many Lebanese parties the Kataeb was inspired by rightist/fascist/ultra-nationalist parties of Spain and Italy so Farah's questions are not without merit. Like Many Lebanese movements, the Kateab was a militia during the civil war, accused of mass atrocities. Yet thanks to the post war amnesty law, the Kataeb and its rivals now function as legitimate political parties.   


The banners have been strung up over many overpasses along the coastal highway. This one says: "77 years in the service of Lebanon..."



And here it is again, just a few hundred meters up the road:



The Kateab is not alone. Virtually every party (former militia) in Lebanon is involved in laying siege to public space, including its rivals the FPMThe Lebanese ForcesThe Future MovementAmal, Hezbollah and the SSNP.   

It would be interesting to know what type of "service" these parties have provided to Lebanon. Any tally should include the number of rounds of savage shelling launched at towns and villages during the civil war, innocents killed or paralyzed and property destroyed as a result of their shelling as well as the appropriation of public space, public institutions and other financial sectors in the post war period. 

Judging by the way they treat highways, it may come as no surprise that most Lebanese political parties do not hold democratic elections and there's close to zero transparency in their public proceedings.  

Beyond Outrage: How the African Diaspora Can Support Migrant Worker Rights in the Middle East

In the past weeks, Ethiopians have protested at Saudi Embassies around the world because of recently posted videos documenting wanton violence against Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. This occurred during a Saudi crackdown on unregistered foreign workers in the Kingdom, which followed a seven month amnesty period. After the November 4th deadline, Ethiopian migrant workers in Riyadh attempted to protest the police tactics in the round up and became the target of angry vigilante mobs that beat and killed at least 3 Ethiopian workers, and injured many more. This violence is only symptom of the larger problem that is the lack of legal protection for migrant workers around the world. The situation is particularly acute in the Middle East, and the abuses against Africans in the region have become increasingly publicized in the past decade.

Abuse and mistreatment of migrant workers in the Middle East is well understood in the African Diaspora. It has been a year and a half since the tragic death of Ethiopian domestic worker Alem Dechasa-Desisa in Beirut, who committed suicide after being publicly beaten and threatened with deportation. Outrage followed that incident, but change has been slow or non-existent in Lebanon and the region since then.

It is time to move beyond outrage and to consider governmental and non-governmental strategies that the Ethiopian Diaspora, African Diaspora, activists in the Middle East and any willing allies can use to work towards ending the abuse of migrant domestic workers and refugees in the Middle East.

Some of my suggestions are:

Support Local Activists and Organizations in the Gulf and LebanonCollaborate With Other Migrant Worker Sending Countries and Diasporas

Continue to Publicize Migrant Worker Abuses

Support the Recent Reforms of the Ethiopian Government and Pressure for Action

Use Our Privilege and Resources as a Diaspora to Provide Support to Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations

Support Domestic Workers Rights in the United States


Read full piece here, by Kumera Genat

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The colour of slavery

Modern day slavery in the Arab world is not based on skin complexion, but rather on legal subordination.

Full piece on AlJazeera

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The Islamic call to prayer emanated loudly from the nearby mosques. As Saudis filed toward the Manfuhah Mosque on November 4, government buses rolled in to carry 23,000 foreign workers to deportation centres, and then out of the kingdom.

Manfuhah, a working class section of Riyadh, was the scene of violent clashes between foreign workers and vigilante citizens for several days leading up to November 4. The unemployment rate is particularly high in Manfuhah, making it the eye of the national storm against foreign workers, who are increasingly perceived as taking Saudi jobs.

The riots followed a controversial reform in Saudi labour laws covering foreign workers, brought about by rising Saudi unemployment, which has reached 12 percent. Saudi legislators calculated that by deporting foreign workers, job opportunities would open up for unemployed Saudis - particularly in the foreign-worker dominated spheres of service, clerical, and manual labour.

The once lax laws that facilitated the expansion of Saudi Arabia's foreign worker population to 9 million - the largest in the Arab world - and enabled their economic exploitation and dehumanisation, now mandate Saudi citizen sponsorship, or kafala, for legal stay.

Deploying "Arab" and "black" as monolithic indicators of modern-day master and slave misses the point, and overlooks the millions of non-African foreign workers that endure slave-like conditions within the Kingdom.

Yet, for the 4 million workers that could not procure sponsorship, the law mandated repatriation back to their homelands. Juxtaposed to the call for prayer, the Saudi legal call is fomenting xenophobic violence and compelling many foreign workers - who are perceived as and generally treated like slaves - to leave the kingdom.

Xenophobic rage
In the days leading up to November 4, Saudi Arabia became the site of an unholy violence toward foreign workers, and particularly in Manfuhah, a distinct where persecution was unleashed on unwanted "slaves" by public and private actors. The majority of the rioting workers were Ethiopians and other East Africans, but framing modern slavery in Saudi Arabia as "Arabs" subjugating "blacks", misrepresents the contours and colour of the inhumanity taking place within the kingdom.

The scene of the beaten and bloodied foreign workers in Riyadh, the vast majority of them Africans, recalls the graphic public beating of Alem Dechessa on the streets of Beirut in March 2012. Dechessa committed suicide shortly after, and her death brought to life - for the first time - mainstream attention to the enslavement of Ethiopian domestic workers not just in Lebanon, but throughout the Arab world.

The violence towards foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, however, is far broader in scale and more comprehensive in scope.

The number of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia is greater than half of its labour force, and is also bigger than the populations of Lebanon, Kuwait and Qatar combined, where foreign workers also face slave-like conditions. In Manfuhah alone, three workers were killed, hundreds were injured, and thousands were detained.

Beyond 'Arab' vs 'black' binary
Saudi-centrism - fuelled by a nefarious cocktail of rigid sectarianism, classism, clannism, and state-sponsored xenophobia - distinguishes Saudi slavery from its regional analogs. Racism is undeniably salient, but its shape is drastically different in Saudi Arabia. Deploying "Arab" and "black" as monolithic indicators of modern-day master and slave misses the point and overlooks the millions of non-African foreign workers that endure slave-like conditions within the kingdom.

"Black" in Saudi Arabia stands not simply for an African identity, but for a marginalised legal status. It is not a universally uniform identity, but a legal status that shifts according to national context. In Saudi Arabia, "black" includes the diverse population of foreign workers that hold no legal rights and that are vulnerable to the unchecked authority of their Saudi overseers.

For the Saudi onlooker, skin complexion, ethnicity and nationality are proxies for foreign-worker status. Indeed, the intersection of black or brown skin, non-Sunni faith, gender, and other variables exacerbates the subjugation endured by a foreign worker, creating great stratification, but the formal designation of foreign worker is the definitive marker of "slave" status.

Among the foreign-worker population are Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians, Nepalese, Pakistanis, and Yemenis, who endure an existence similar to that of the Ethiopian workers. Almost a million foreign workers from these nations left Saudi Arabia during the course of the last three months. The majority fled anticipating the nativist backlash that climaxed with the Riyadh riots.

If we accept the "Arab" versus "black" slave binary, how do we reconcile the subjugation and enslavement of Yemeni Arabs? Yemenis, who are Arabs, occupy a subordinate status within the kingdom. In fact, since November 1, over 30,000 Yemeni workers migrated back to their homeland amid the rising violence toward foreign workers.

Regardless of whether domestic workers are Yemenis, Ethiopian, Sudanese, Indian or Pakistani, they are "black" in Saudi Arabia - occupying a slave-like existence where their Saudi handlers bond them by debt, seize their legal documents, imprison them within the kingdom, and as enshrined by the new law, expel them immediately when they see fit.

Slavery and its incidents are far more complex than "Arab" versus "black". Rather, slavery in the kingdom pits Saudi citizen against a spectrum of foreign workers branded "job thieves" by state legislators. These foreign workers range in nationality, phenotype, and religion, but share a common legal status that makes them collectively "black" in Saudi Arabia. Subscribing to simplistic racial binaries impairs the ability to see the milieu of victims, and indeed, the precise character of the villains.

The new labour law passed in the land of Mecca, Medina, and thousands upon thousands of mosques, cannot mask the slavery it has practised for years, and the calls for its abolition outside the kingdom are becoming as resounding as the calls for prayer within it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Migration myths debunked

Very interesting points.

Read through.

IRIN Link

Widespread negative public opinion about migration and migrants is often driven less by facts, such as the actual number of migrants arriving in a particular country, than by a raft of misperceptions: migrants are stealing jobs from locals, driving up crime rates and burdening public services.

Numerous studies by academics and researchers have produced evidence disproving many of these fallacies. IRIN takes a look at some of the most common myths surrounding migration and presents some of the evidence that challenges them.

1. MYTH: The majority of migrants come from the poorer South and move to the richer North
FACT: Less than half (40 percent) of all migrants worldwide move from the developing countries of the South to the developed countries of the North. According to Gallup Poll data published in the International Organization for Migration’s 2013 World Migration Report, at least one-third of migrants move from one developing country to another (South to South) and 22 percent migrate from one developed country to another (North to North). A small but growing number of migrants (5 percent) move from North to South.

2. MYTH: Migration is on the increase
FACT: The number of international migrants has grown to 232 million in 2013 (from 175 million in 2000 and154 million in 1990), but this is mainly the result of population growth. Migrants as a share of the world’s population have remained fairly steady at between 2.5 and 3 percent. A number of studies have found that people in migrant-receiving countries consistently overestimate the size of their migrant population, which contributes to the perception that there are “too many” migrants.

3. MYTH: Tackling poverty and lack of development in migrant-sending countries would reduce migration to wealthier countries
FACT: Social and economic development in poor countries leads to more migration, not less, at least in the short- to medium-term. While migrants are often portrayed as poor and desperate, it takes significant resources to migrate over long distances. Hein de Hass, co-director of the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford has pointed out that it also takes an awareness of opportunities elsewhere, which usually only comes with a certain level of education and access to modern media. Increased development produces a larger section of the population with the aspiration and resources to migrate.

4. MYTH: Stricter border controls and regulations reduce irregular migration
FACT: Migrants and asylum seekers are more likely to resort to entering a country irregularly when there are no legal alternatives. This often means relying on smugglers and using routes that expose them to numerous dangers and even death. Tragedies like the recent shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa, in which more than 350 migrants lost their lives trying to reach Europe, tend to result in calls for yet more border controls that often deflect irregular migration flows rather than significantly reducing them. Ironically, studies have shown that stricter border controls prevent short-term and circular migration whereby migrants return home regularly before returning to host countries and force them to stay put in destination countries for longer due to the difficulty and expense of re-entry.

5. MYTH: Migrants take jobs that would otherwise go to natives
FACT: The effects of immigration on labour markets are complex and varied, depending on time and place. In developed countries, especially during periods of economic growth, migrant workers often hold low-skilled, low-paid jobs that natives are unwilling to do. Although competition for such jobs may become fiercer during an economic downturn, immigration can also create jobs by stimulating economic growth, and because migrant-run businesses often employ locals. There is a strong correlation between immigration rates and economic growth rates. When growth and job opportunities slow, so does immigration.

6. MYTH: Migrants are a drain on social services and public resources
FACT: In many countries, migrants – particularly irregular migrants – have no access to social services such as public healthcare and housing. Where they can access the welfare system, they are much less likely to do so than locals, partly because a larger proportion of them are young adults with fewer health and educational needs. A studyby University College London found that recent migrants to the UK were 45 percent less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than natives. The same study found that migrants contributed significantly more in taxes than they received in social benefits.

7. MYTH: Individuals who enter a country irregularly are illegal immigrants
FACT: While crossing a border without documents may constitute an infringement of immigration laws, it does not make an individual “illegal”, particularly if that individual is an asylum seeker. The UN Refugee Convention recognizes the right of people fleeing persecution to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of whether they hold valid travel documents. Even for non-asylum seekers, violations of immigration laws are usually considered civil rather than criminal offences. In the past year, a number of media outlets have stopped using the term “illegal immigrant” and replaced it with undocumented or irregular migrant.

8. MYTH: Most migrants are “illegal”
FACT: Although, for obvious reasons, it is very difficult to count numbers of irregular migrants, they represent a fraction of the total number of international migrants. In the United States, for example, about 25 percent of all migrants are undocumented. In Europe, the proportion is much lower, with only between seven and 12 percent of the “foreign population” consisting of undocumented migrants in 2008. As mentioned in the previous point, people fleeing persecution and conflict in countries such as Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan are often forced to cross borders without documents, and may even travel with and use the same smugglers as economic migrants, but once they have applied for asylum, they are subject to refugee legislation rather than immigration laws.

Friday, November 15, 2013

كِلى سوريّة للبيع

AlMudun Link

ثلاثة رجال في سيارة واحدة في بيروت، بالإضافة إلى السائق.
رائد، شاب سوري يبلغ من العمر 19 عاماً. مقيم في لبنان منذ 7 أشهر، بعدما إضطرته الحرب في حلب إلى مغادرتها مع عائلته المكونة من ذويه وأخوته الستة. العائلة استنفدت ما لديها من مدّخرات خلال فترة قصيرة من الإقامة في بيروت. فجأة يسمع رائد من قريب له أن الحل ببيع إحدى كليتيه.
الشاري رجل إسمه أبو حسين ذو عنق كالثور (الرجل الثاني في السيارة).
أبو حسين يعمل لدى عصابة تتاجر بالأعضاء، ومتخصصة بالكِلى. تشهد تجارة العصابة إزدهاراً في الآونة الأخيرة. رئيس أبو حسين يعرف في النواحي الفقيرة بإسم "الرجل الكبير".
أبو حسين: في ما يتعلق بالكِلى فان الباعة أكثر من الشراة.
أبو حسين أيضاً: أربعة رجال من المستخدمين لدى "الرجل الكبير" توسطوا لبيع 150 كلية خلال الأشهر الإثني عشر الأخيرة.
أبو حسين أيضاً وأيضاً: ثمة عصابات أخرى تقوم بالأمر نفسه. وقد قمت في الأشهر الأخيرة بنقل ما بين 15 إلى 16 متبرعاً سورياً، جُلّهم تراوح أعمارهم ما بين الـ14 و30 عاماً، الى العيادة السرّية.
رائد، لاعب كرة القدم في المنتخب الوطني السوري للشباب، تقاضى سبعة ألاف دولار لقاء كليته. وقد أخبره الجراحون بأن كليته سرعان ما ستعاود نموّها، وبأن العملية لن تترك آثاراً جانبية.
رائد، الجالس في المقعد الخلفي للسيارة يطالب أبو حسين بمسكنات الألم التي وعده بها.
أبو حسين صارخاً: سد بوزك. آخر همي إذا بتموت. أصلاً، أنت منتهي.
(...) إنتهى الإقتباس.
الوقائع أعلاه التي أعيد صوغها بتصرّف ليست جزءاً من سيناريو فيلم درامي، وليست أيضاً قصة من القصص التي غالباً ما تقع في جمهورية موز نائية في النصف الثاني من الكرة الأرضية المقابل لنصفنا. وإنّما هي قصة من قصص اللاجئين السوريين في لبنان، نقلها الصحافي أولريك باتز في تحقيق له في "شبيغل اونلاين" قبل أيام.
في الواقع، أولريك هو الرجل الرابع في السيارة. لا أحد يعرف كيف سُمح له بذلك، لكنه ما حصل بحسب تأكيده، وبحسب الوقائع التي ينقلها. وقد حاز تقريره أكثر من 7 ألاف مشاركة حتى الساعة. كما تضمّن صورة نصفية للشاب رائد، مع قطعة من الشاش مدموغة بالدماء (وربما بالمطهّر؟) من ناحية كليته اليسرى التي إستؤصلت لقاء 7 ألاف دولار.
كلية بـ7 آلاف دولار في لبنان. يشتريها لبنانيون وعرب طلباً للشفاء من داء الكِلى، فيما يبيعها لاجئون سوريون وجدوا أنفسهم متروكين لمصائرهم، بلا خبز ولا كساء ولا سقف يقيهم الجوع والبرد والقيظ على السواء.
لاجئون يقوم النظام السوري بقتلهم مباشرة أو بتهجيرهم، لا تقوم قيادة المعارضة التي تدعي أنها الممثل الشرعي لهم سوى بتوفير شروط موتهم البطيء خارج أوطانهم وبأبشع السبل. بإختصار، لا تقدّم لهم شيئاً بإستثناء أنباء مخزية جديدة عن فضائحها، أو صفعاتها.
أما لبنان الذي يستضيف اليوم بحسب آخر تقارير الأمم المتحدة ما يزيد عن المليون لاجئ سوري، بينهم حوالي 800 ألف مسجل، فلا يفعل غير الندب كعجوز لا يملك من أمر مستقبله شيئاً. يروح يشكو عجزه، وتداعي ركائز إقتصاده، وعدم إيفاء الدول الكبرى بتعهداتها بتقديم مساعدات للاجئين السوريين في لبنان. يرى السوريين يموتون أو يدفعون إلى ذلك، فيقف يتفرج، كما لو أن شيئاً لم يكن.
في الغضون، هذا ما يحصل في لبنان. وهذا ما ستسجله كتب التاريخ:
السوريون في سوريا يقتلون. وفي لبنان يجرّدون من إنسانيتهم حد بيع حيواتهم، إرباً إرباً.
أمّا إنسانيتنا، وهي أغلى ما نملك، فنراها تتبدّد أمامنا قطعة فقطعة. تكاد تنفد. أو بالأحرى نفدت منذ دهر، أو أكثر قليلاً.
ما عدنا نملك ترف الإحساس. بتنا، لا أكثر من فتات على قارعة طريق لا يقصدها أحد. ففي آخرها لا يوجد غير العدم.

REPORT: At least 95 migrant domestic workers die every year in Lebanon

A recent report issued by Human Rights Watch showed that at least 95 migrant domestic workers have died every year in Lebanon since 2007.

This report will shed light on the humanitarian situation of the migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.


LBC Link

Monday, November 11, 2013

عن فريدا ومروان.. الإعلام يضيع بين الخاص والعام


تعرّف اللبنانيون في الأيام الأخيرة على مروان حمزة في ظروف مأساوية. باتوا يعرفون عنه الكثير، وربما أكثر مما يجب. بفضل وسائل الإعلام اللبنانية التي جعلت من رحيله خبراً أوّل، سمحنا لأنفسنا، نحن القراء والمشاهدين، بالتنظير في موضوع صحّته النفسية، وعائلته، وأموره الخاصة. ذهبت التغطية الإعلاميّة أبعد من إعلامنا بأنّه شاب لم يتم الثانية والعشرين من العمر، توفي بعدما هوى عن سطح الطبقة السادسة في مبنى السكن الجامعي في «الجامعة الأميركية في بيروت». تفوقت على نفسها في طرح الفرضيات حول موته، وتحويل الشاب وفاجعة ذويه، إلى سبق صحافي، مع ما تخلله ذلك من تفاصيل مغلوطة.
تعرّفنا إلى مروان حمزة بسبب فاجعة ألمّت بعائلته، وصار التحقيق بأسباب وفاته، حديث «فايسبوك» و«تويتر»، ونشرات الأخبار. لكن ماذا نعرف عن فريدا دافين؟ الأرجح أن أحداً لا يعرف شيئاً. ولعل الذين سمعوا باسمها أو قرأوا عنها، نسوا الخبر تماماً. فهو أحد الأخبار الشائعة في لبنان للأسف، وجاء بعنوان «وجدت مشنوقة في دارة مخدومها». الخبر لم يفدنا سوى باسمها، بأنّها بنغالية، وباسم «مخدومها». حتى موقع الجثّة بدا مبهماً: صحيفة «دايلي ستار» أفادت أنّ جثة فريدا وجدت معلّقة على شجرة، وموقع «المؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال» الإلكتروني نقل أنّها وجدت في بهو منزل مخدومها.
لقي مروان وفريدا في اليوم نفسه، السادس من تشرين الثاني 2013. فريدا عاملة بنغالية فقيرة، ومروان طالب هندسة في «الجامعة الأميركية في بيروت».
تضخم خبر موت مروان وشاع وتشعّب وبنيت حوله الفرضيات والنظريات. ومن دون أيّ اكتراث لخصوصيّة عائلته، بات الجميع مهتماًّ بنشر الوعي حول الصحة النفسية ووجوب التخلّص من وصمة العار التي تلاحق المرضى... وذلك على الرغم من عدم دقّة كلّ ما أشيع عن «انتحاره» أو مرضه.
أما خبر انتحار فريدا المؤكّد والذي يستحقّ فتح نقاش عام حوله، لأنّه ليس حالة فرديّة، فطمس بشكل كامل.
في نقل خبر موت مروان، لم توفر وسائل الإعلام اللبنانية (مكتوبة ومرئية) كعادتها الفرصة لإبراز قدراتها على نقل أخبار غير دقيقة، والوصول إلى استنتاجات قبل زملاء الطالب الراحل، وعائلته. وفي وقت بدت معظم وسائل الإعلام واثقة بفرضية الانتحار، ومن أنّه «كان يعاني من أمراض نفسية وعصبية»، لم تجد نفسها معنية بنشر خبر انتحار فريدا، واكتفت بالقول انّ الحادث «يبدو انتحاراً».
متابعة قضيّة مروان لم تكتفِ بالفرضيّات وحسب، بل إنّ تجميع عناصر الخبر لم يكن دقيقاً منذ اللحظات الأولى. فأوّل الصور التي نشرت عن الحادث، تبيّن لاحقاً أنّها صور من حادث آخر. حتى أنّ مروان كان لا يزال على قيد الحياة، حين نشر خبر وفاته، أي قبيل وصول الأمن والإسعاف إلى مكان سقوطه. لاحقاً، نقلت وسائل إعلام أنّه سقط من الطابق الخامس لمبنى كلية الهندسة... لكنّ ليس في مبنى كلية الهندسة في الجامعة الأميركية خمسة طوابق! ليتبين بعدها انه سقط من الطابق السادس لمبنى سكن الطلاب «بينروز».
وكمحصّلة لما تمّ تواتره على مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي، افترضت وسائل الإعلام أنّ الشاب كان يعاني أمراضاً نفسيّة، وأنّ والده جرّاح الأعصاب، كان يتابع حالته.. ليقوم الوالد بنفي تلك الفرضيّات من أساسها، في اليوم التالي.
التغطية المضخّمة لهذه الفاجعة وحياكة القصص والافتراضات المبهمة حولها، وضعت أهل الشاب المتوفى في موقع الدفاع، من دون علمهم ولا رغبتهم على الأرجح. بعض الصحف استأصل الكلام من حلق الوالد المفجوع ليحكي عن ابنه المتفوّق الذي كان يعزف الكمان ويحبّ الكتب الفلسفية.
لماذا هذا الخرق لخصوصية العائلة ولحظات حزنها؟ وهل زادتنا استباحة خصوصية الشاب الراحل معرفةً؟ وما ايجابية تحويل فاجعة هذه العائلة الخاصة إلى مسألة عامة مفتوحة على النقاش والتداول العام؟ لا فائدة تذكر، سوى استمرار وسائل الإعلام في عادتها تحويل الخصوصيّات إلى مادّة صحافيّة.
أما فريدا، فتمّ تجاهلها وتجاهل قضيتها تماماً. لم نعرف عنها شيئاً. لا ما كانت تحب ولا ما إذا كانت تقرأ الشعر أو تحب الطبيعة. لا نعرف عمرها ولا شكلها ولا اذا ما استلم اهلها جثتها لدفنها. نعرف أنّها رقم يضاف إلى مأساة آلاف العاملات الأجنبيّات المنتحرات في لبنان، من دون أيّ نقاش فعّال حول مصيرهنّ. تلك أيضاً من عادات الإعلام اللبناني الذي يخطئ غالباً في تقدير الموقف.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Jezebel on Halloween


"You're being too sensitive!"/ "Don't you have more important things to worry about?"
"OMG Get Over It."
"He said he's sorry okay?!?!"

A few of many standard form replies one gets one they point out blatant racism.
Read this piece on Jezebel.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Keeping housemaids at a ‘close distance’

Check out this project and all those photos.
CNN's link

**

The two women sit in close proximity, but they remain worlds apart. 
It’s a reflection of life in urban Bangladesh, where domestic maids are commonly employed but often hidden from view. 
 For her illuminating series, “Close Distance,” photographer Jannatul Mawa took portraits of maids and the women who employ them in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. 
With the simple act of putting the women side by side on the same couch, Mawa disrupted social rules. She found that sometimes, the maid would choose to sit on the floor rather than sit on the same couch as her employer. 
“Every day, maidservants take care of the bed and sofa with their hands, but they are neither allowed to sit nor to sleep on them once,” Mawa said. “With their domestic roles, they are close to the middle-class women and distant at the same time.” Mawa chose maids as a documentary subject after she hired two of them to help her after the birth of her child. 
“Despite my conscience and work on women's rights, I am not out of the societal system,” she said. “Within women, there is class difference depending on the economic and professional position of individuals, which I want to show here.” 
In the photos, the body language of the two seated women is markedly different, presenting both the formal distance and the class division between the women. 
Mawa said that before each portrait, she had to persuade the women to have the picture made. All of the women she approached for portraits were reluctant; they worried about who might see the images. But Mawa eventually convinced them by reminding them that the social problems that created the conditions for maids were larger than the individual. 
The exact number of domestic maids in Bangladesh is unclear, but some nongovernmental organizations have estimated there are approximately 500,000 in Dhaka, according to a paper presented by the scholar Nasrin Akter at the 2006 meeting of the International Studies Association. Mawa said that traditionally in Dhaka, the maids are given two meals a day for their labor and make about $15 a month. 
These women are extremely vulnerable, according to the abstract of Akter’s report. “They are usually very young and work long hours for little pay and often face abuses,” it said. “The destiny of these maids rests largely on the mercy of their employers. As their parents or close relatives primarily live in rural areas and usually are unable to afford to visit Dhaka regularly to oversee the condition, they are exposed to a wide range of maltreatment.” 
The plain, consistent lighting and frontal angle used by Mawa in her portraits seems to underscore the images as a social survey. She plans to shoot next in homes in different districts outside of Dhaka, to compare the capital with regional attitudes toward domestic help. 
While using the tools of the anthropologist, Mawa never forgets to show the humanity of her subjects. Her portraits display the faces of women who are normally secluded and invisible, and render them unforgettable.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

لاجئون وطالبو لجوء سودانيون يواجهون العنصرية


دخل محيي الدين، أحد مطاعم الحمرا في منطقة بيروت واختار ما يريد تناوله على الفطور. لحظات وشاهد محيي الدين النادل يتهامس مع أقرانه وهم ينظرون إليه، قبل أن يتقدم الأخير باتجاهه قائلاً له "ما طلبته ثمنه مرتفع". أجابه محيي الدين "لا مشكلة". لحظات وتقدم شخص اخر باتجاه طاولته، سرعان ما اكتشف محيي الدين أنه صاحب المطعم. أعاد الأخير التكرار على مسامعه أن الفاتورة ستكون مرتفعة بدوره، جدد محيي الدين التأكيد أن لديه ما يكفي من المال، عندها لم يتردد صاحب المطعم بالطلب منه دفع الفاتورة مسبقاً دفع محيي الدين ثمن الطعام ثم غادر على عجل وقرر بعدها انهاء العمل الذي اتى لأجله إلى لبنان والعودة سريعاً إلى السودان حيث لن يجد من يطالبه بدفعه ثمن طعامه مسبقاً فقط لأن لون بشرته يدل على انه يأتي من بلد افريقي، يرتبط في عقول البعض في لبنان بالفقر المدقع.

مناهضة العنصرية بالفرح


لحظة وصول العاملة الأجنبية إلى مطار بيروت تبدأ سلسلة الإنتهاكات لحقوقها. تحشر فيغرفة ضيّقة مع كثيرات غيرها في انتظار أن يأتي الكفيل. لا استقلاليّة لها كإنسان. تعامل كأنها سلعة تنتظر من يشتريها. إلا أنّ نظام الكفالة هذا الذي يستملكهنّ منذ وصولهنّ ويحرمهنّ أبسط حقوقهنّ كأناس، ليس وحده ما يشكّل معاناتهن ويجرّدهن من الإنسانيّة. إذ يتعرض عدد كبير من العاملات والعمال الأجانب في لبنان إلى ممارسات أقلّ ما يمكن وصفها بأنها عنصريّة. وقانون العمل اللبناني الذي يرفض حماية العاملة الأجنبية يأبى أيضاً محاسبة من يرتكب بحقها التجاوزات، إذ لا تستطيع حتى رفع دعوى قضائية ضد من ينتهك إنسانيتها.

الحاجة إلى محاربة الإنتهاكات الكثيرة في حق العاملات الأجنبيات، خلقت "حركة مناهضة العنصريّة"، بحسب المنسقة العامّة للحركة، فرح سلكا. وبرغم العنوان الفضفاض للحركة إلا أنّها متخصصة أساساً في مساعدة العاملات في المنازل. وهذا لا يمنع تنظيمها بين الحين والآخر، تحركات مناهضة للعنصرية تجاه اللاجئين السوريين أو غيرهم.

وتشرح سلكا: "اقتصرت نشاطات الحركة في البدء على مساعدة العاملات اللواتي يواجهن مشاكل، مثل الاعتداء الجسدي وعدم دفع الأجور والعنصرية والتمييز وغيرها". لكن في ما بعد، توسعت الحركة لتشمل أيضا العمال الذكور، ما "استدعى إيجاد مساحة خاصة لهؤلاء فكان "مركز العمال المهاجرين" الذي افتتح في أيلول 2011 في منطقة النبعة، كنقطة تجمّع ومتنفس حياة". غير أن "بعض القنوات الإعلامية وعبر بعض تقاريرها المحرّضة، إستنكرت حق هؤلاء في الحياة بشكل طبيعي، وسرعان ما تحوّل المركز إلى مكان غير آمن ليصبح الذهاب إليه مساء نوعاً من المغامرة. لهذا السبب، إضافة إلى ضيق المساحة، انتقل المركز إلى منطقة الجميزة".

"المركز هو المكان الوحيد الذي يدافع عن حقوقنا ويساعدنا للإستمرار في الحياة"، تقول راحيل لـ "المدن"، وهي عاملة مهاجرة عانت نظام الكفالة في لبنان. تعرضت راحيل لسوء المعاملة، واضطرت أحياناً إلى العمل مجاناً، لكنها تؤكد أنّ ما مرّت به لا يذكر أمام معاناة غيرها. ليديا، كان حظّها أوفر من الآخرين، فكفيلها لم يسيء إليها. لجأت إلى المركز لتعلّم اللغات، ثم أصبحت عضواً فاعلاً فيه. "أشعر أنه منزلي"، تقول ليديا. وتؤكد أن كل الناس سواسية هنا، "لا يوجد مسؤول أو شخص أهم من الآخر، يأتون إلى المركز الذي يؤمن لهم وللأطفال أشياء غير متوافرة في أماكن أخرى، كالنشاطات والألعاب وتعليم الطبخ واللغات وغيرها، ومن دون مقابل".

المركز يتألف من غرف عدة، واحدة للإجتماعات، وأخرى للأطفال تحتوي على ألعاب وتقام فيها نشاطات للأطفال، وغرفتان لأجهزة الكومبيوتر والانترنت لأن العمّال في حاجة دائماً إلى التواصل مع عائلاتهم وأصدقائهم في الخارج. كما أنه يقيم دورات كومبيوتر وإنترنت. تتحول الغرف كلّها، خلال عطلة نهاية الأسبوع إلى غرف للدراسة. فالمركز يؤمن دورات لتعلّم اللغات: العربية، الإنكليزية، والفرنسية، ويقسّم العمال بحسب مستوى اللغة. وهناك أيضاً دروس في الطهي. وتقام دورات متنوعة بحسب الأشخاص الذين يتطوعون لإعطاء ورشات عمل. مثلاً، نظذمت ورشة تحت عنوان "المشورة القانونيّة". وكي لا يشعر العمال وأطفالهم بالعزلة، وبأن نشاطاتهم تنحصر في المركز، يبادر المشرفون على المركز إلى إقامة نشاطات ترفيهية وإجتماعيّة خارجه.

أعضاء المركز يدركون جيداً أنّ هناك أشياء ليس في مقدورهم تغييرها، كنظام الكفالة مثلاً الذي يتطلّب تغييّره وقتاً طويلاً. ومع ذلك يحاولون... وبرغم الأعداد الكبيرة للعاملات اللواتي يستقطبهن المركز، إلا أن هناك شريحة أكبر لا يستطيع الوصول إليها، لأن النظام اللبناني يسمح ببقائها سجينة بين جدران المنازل.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

بالصور: توقيف جيمي الهندريكس في مخفر حبيش خلال زيارته لبنان

A few people shared with us this article and were pretty upset about it. 
What do you think?
Check piece here.

اوقفت دورية من شعبة الممنوعات عازف الغيثارة المشهور عالمياً جميل الهندريكس بعد ملاسنة حصلت بينه وبين الـbouncers امام مربع “bigshot”.

وحصل المشكل حين كان جيمي في زاروب “علي واي” في شارع الحمرا يعزف مجاناً للمارة. وحين كان الهندريكس يضرب الوتر الحساس على أنغام “بوربل هايز” (purple haze) توجه احد الحراس نحوه وقال له “إرحل من هنا يا زنجي، هذا شارع للهيب هوب، هون منلعب “ليل واين” و هيدي اللي طيزا كبيرة وما بتعرف تنستر”، وكان يقصد “نيكي ميناج”.

وقبل ان يكمل الحارس كلامه كان جيمي قد رفع غيثارته عالياً وضربها نزولاً ليطحن جمجمة الحارس عالناعم. ثم قال له:”لمين عم تقول زنجي يا ***؟ ما الزبالة اللي انتا كمان بتسمعها عاملينا الزنوج.” الا ان الحارس لم يجب على السؤال لإنه غاب عن الوعي فوراً.

عندها توجهت قوة مؤللة من شعبة الممنوعات نحو الهالة المؤلهة لجيمي الهندريكس فسلّم نفسه طوعاً من دون اي مقاومة.

وانتظر جيمي نصف ساعة على الطريق في انتظار ان تتفق القوى الأمنية حول الجهة صاحبة الصلاحية لتوقيف الهندريكس في منطقة راس بيروت. وربح “مخفر حبيش” الكباش.

وعند وصول الهندريكس الى المخفر طلب الظابط نشرة الهندريكس فوجد لائحة طويلة من التهم المنسوبة اليه منها “التسول”، الانتساب الى منظمة ممنوعة تدعى “اتحاد المنشقين عن قوى الأمر الواقع”، وإعجابه بصفحة بيروت 5 امبير على موقع التواصل الإجتماعي فايسبوك.

وما إن تناقل المعجبين أنباء احتجاز الهندريكس على مواقع التواصل الإجتماعي حتى بدأت تنتشر الدعوات للتوجه الى المخفر لتحريره. واستعمل “الناشطون” هاشتاغ #كلنا_جيمي_هندريكس .

وبعد ان تجمهر الآلاف من الناشطين المستقلين والمواطنين وأعضاء حزب الروك اللبناني امام المخفر، بدأت الاتصالات تأتي من الفعاليات البيروتية لإطلاق سراح الهندريكس خوفاً على سلامة القوى الأمنية. وتدخل الوزير مروان شربل شخصياً وقال للصحفيين “الدركي عنا بلبنان ماكسيموم بيشتري خضرة”.

وأطلق سراح الهندريكس عند الساعة الثانية من فجر اليوم الأحد وحمله المعجبون على الأكتاف. وفي أول تصريح له بعد الحادثة، قال الهندريكس لمدونة بيروت خمسة امبير:”والله ما كنت عارف هلقد فالت الوضع عندكن، هنيئاً لمن له مرقد عنزة في لبنان…”
- See more at: http://www.aljadeed.tv/MenuAr/news/DetailNews/DetailNews.html?id=90512&fb_source=message#sthash.PnNmnv7o.dpuf

#Halloween #Beirut #Again

It's that time of year again, Lebanon.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Understanding racism against Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Very important piece on Civil Society Knowledge Centre by Mohamad Ali-Nayel and Bassem Chit.

A Syrian refugee, when asked how Lebanon was treating him, lamented and said:
“How is it treating me? It isn't treating me, it treats my money. Because of the nature of my job (veterinarian) I'm dealing with middle upper class Lebanese who only make their judgments based on money. They see that I'm here spending, and they see that I too come from the middle classes so they don't show as much bigotry as it is normally the sentiment against us (Syrians) in Lebanon”.
The end of Lebanon’s civil war was marked by a more direct hegemonic role of the Syrian regime over the country’s political and economic spheres, with a high level of complicity from the Lebanese rulers with the Syrian regime. This status quo allowed the Syrian regime, on one hand, to escape the economic stagnation the country faced1, through the open borders policy, allowing scores of Syrian workers to come to Lebanon in search of jobs. On the other hand, it gave the Lebanese ruling class and its contractors access to cheap labor, without providing them with any rights, in the large reconstruction projects that were initiated by the government in the early 1990’s, after 15 years of civil war.
Source: yalibnan.com
Syrian refugees in UNHCR waiting room, Beirut, Lebanon | Photo by: yalibnan.com 
Resentment against the Syrian regime’s control over Lebanon grew in the post-civil war years, yet this discontent was easily channeled through the dominant discourses into an unchallenged (neither by the Syrian or Lebanese State, nor by the majority of civil society organizations and political parties in Lebanon) xenophobic and racist sentiments against Syrian workers. They became stereotyped and stigmatized as “ignorant” and “menial” workers. Although it was exactly this Syrian labor force that rebuilt Lebanon in the post-war era.
The ongoing popular uprising that started in Syria in early 2011 especially after the oppressive response by the regime, has now turned into an all-out war across the country. As a result, a high number of Syrian citizens fled their country into Lebanon. Yet, and in contrast to the previous composition of the Syrian community that was present in Lebanon before 2011, this new influx introduced new and different segments of the Syrian population into Lebanon, such as the Syrian upper and lower middle classes. These newcomers found striking similarities with the Lebanese middle classes. However, the majority of refugees is still composed of Syrian workers and the urban and rural poor.
The multi-class composition of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has challenged pre-existing xenophobic sentiments and stigmas, as the starting quote mentions:“They see that I'm here spending, and they see that I too come from the middle classes so they don't show as much bigotry as it is normally the sentiment against us (Syrians) in Lebanon”. However, it only does so on a class basis. The Syrian middle classes are able, in effect, albeit to a small extent, to escape the stigmatization, which is becoming more and more focused and concentrated on poor and working class Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
At the same time, the influx of Syrian refugees is also shaping contradictory sentiments among the wider populace in Lebanon. On one side there is an element of basic sympathy, which can be identified through a diverse scope of activities such as Lebanese families hosting refugees in their homes or property, as well as basic support like clothing and food in different regions and locations in cities and villages. As a 50 year old woman comments, contemplating that issue of basic sympathy: “It is unethical to blame the refugees for the problems we are facing, they had no choice in coming here, they are running from war, like we ran before them from the [Lebanese] civil war”.
On the other side, there are the dominant discourses propagated by leading political forces and elites, along with their affiliated media stations. They have been actively scapegoating Syrian refugees and blaming them for economic, social and security failures in the country. These discourses are then replicated through the daily politics of individuals and groups, forging a xenophobic and racist popular culture against Syrian refugees. 
MP Michel Aoun recently stated that the “Syrian refugees are a serious danger”, while Samir Geagea, the main figure in Lebanon’s Lebanese Forces, stressed on the 30th of August 2013, about “Lebanon’s inability to handle [The Syrian refugee crisis] more, and that a viable solution needs to be put in place, and the only solution is to establish safe zones within Syria’s borders under international protection.” Moreover, Marwan Charbel, Lebanon’s internal security minister declared on February 28th 2013 that the “Syrian refugees are threatening the security situation in Lebanon”. Other major political forces in Lebanon, like Hizbullah, Amal, Jumblatt's PSP (Progressive Socialist Party), and Hariri’s Future Current mostly stressed the Humanitarian aspect of the “Syrian refugees Crisis” in Lebanon, but have refrained from countering any of the racist and xenophobic discourses, in the political and media spheres and even among their base of supporters and cadres.
The scapegoating discourse does not spur out of a natural inclination towards racism. Rather, it signals a deep crisis that the Lebanese state and its ruling elite have been facing since 20052. More recently, it became galvanized by the crisis faced by the Syrian regime and the consequent influx of refugees, which has uncovered Lebanon’s ruling elite’s inability to manage the rising needs within society and the calls for reform.
Social dismay in Lebanon also started to accumulate around 2011, exacerbated by a history of corruption and conflicts, in the absence of any real and concrete plans of economic and social development and reform. The past two years witnessed a short-lived social mobilization against sectarianism and a prolonged mobilization and strike movement by the Trade Union Coordination Committee, in addition to localized protests, such as the electricity workers’ open strike. Added to that was the rising pressure from civil society forces for equal rights for women and other social issues. This led the Lebanese State and major political forces in the country to actively try to escape that pressure by attempting to channel existing popular resentment against the State towards a xenophobic and racist victimization of poor Syrian refugees. 
To simply say that the Lebanese are naturally racist is shortsighted. This over-simplification tends to overlook factors that concentrate and divert people’s frustration against their own regime, towards scapegoating and discrimination against Syrian refugees. In order to discern this process of diversion or deflection, the role of Lebanon’s media institutions needs to be interpreted and the manner in which they shape people’s general understanding and consciousness of the world around them and its contradictions.
On August 6th, 2013, a news article published by An-Nahar newspaper, a Arabic Lebanese political daily, mentions that:
“The worker and craftsman from Akkar already suffers from a tough economic hardship and shrinking job opportunities. They are being forced between the hammer of a human feeling, sympathy with the displaced Syrians, and the anvil of the reality of living difficulties. The Syrian seasonal workers have become today's workers and permanent residents working in various business available in Akkar”
The author in this paragraph summarizes the problematic of this article. First, he manages to establish an unquestionable status quo in Akkar by saying it “already suffers from a tough economic hardship and shrinking job opportunities.” He then suggests that what is galvanizing these hardships is also another unquestionable fact, which is the taking over of jobs by the Syrian refugees, who are “already registered as refugees and are benefiting from international, Arab and local aid”.
The author fails to mention the reasons of economic stagnation in Akkar, North of Lebanon, which has been witnessing a serious lack of attention from the Lebanese State especially in terms of socio-economic development. A study conducted by Mada Association in 2008 notices the following about the area: 
“In 1998, Akkar accounted for 12.5 percent of the total number of deprived individuals in Lebanon, with 63.3 percent of the families in the region living in poverty and 23.3 percent of them in extreme poverty. Preliminary results of the 2004 mapping using the same living conditions index show that Akkar continues to have the highest share of poor households in Lebanon.”
From another side, the author also fails to mention the reasons why Syrian refugees, who are “receiving aid,” as he states, are in dire need of finding jobs. He also fails to ask whether the provided aid is actually enough to sustain the Syrian refugees, who did not flee to Lebanon by choice, but were rather forced to do so due to the ongoing violence in Syria.
Oxfam, an international humanitarian organization, carried out a Fair Share Analysis of Donations to the UN Syria Crisis Appeal, September 2013 and deduced the following:
“Research carried out by international aid agency Oxfam reveals that many donor countries are failing to provide their share of the urgently-needed funding for the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis. While the need for a political solution to the crisis is as urgent as ever, Oxfam says donors including France, Qatar and Russia, must also prioritise funding the UN’s $5 billion appeals.”
By omitting these facts, the author, on one hand, leaves the reader with the conclusion that people in Akkar are communities who, in order to make a living, need to fend for themselves, without showing the shortcomings and responsibilities of the State or the region’s elected MPs. On the other hand, he suggests that Akkar’s residents, although living a tough reality, they were generally doing ok, until the Syrian refugees arrived to the region.
This method of diversion is prevalent in Lebanese media reporting. In an article published by Assafir newspaper on September 4th, 2013, which could be read as a feel-good story about the refugees. However, the story’s conclusion focuses on the negative sentiments that sum up refugees as a nuisance and alien to the “Lebanese way of life.
“The large number of motorcycles, though making life easier for Syrian refugees, has become an ample curse for the local population in the villages. The movements of dozens of motorbikes in villages have annoyed their residents, who in turn complained about the annoying sounds in narrow streets and alleys, in addition to the smoke that is emitted from each motorbike. This urged local authorities and security forces to control their movement, by setting specific limited hours for their movement.”
Although the author mentions the reasons why Syrian refugees use motorbikes, as it has a low cost compared to the high costs of local transportation systems in Lebanon, he misses the fact that the use of motorbikes is also a prevalent means of transportation, for the same reasons mentioned above, for many Lebanese from working class or poor backgrounds. Instead of tackling the question of transportation, facing both poor Lebanese and poor Syrian refugees alike, which is by all means the responsibility of the Lebanese State and ruling elites, the issue is thus diverted into an unresolvable dilemma presented in the concluding comparison, portraying quaint Lebanese villages versus the noise and nuisance that is caused by Syrian refugees on motorbikes.
Another example of this method of reporting can be found in an article published on April 19th, 2013 by Al-Akhbar newspaper, another Arabic, Lebanese political daily. The author seems to have just discovered or is re-discovering Souk Al-Ahad (The Sunday Market). The author observes, based on the present businesses and the crowds in the Sunday Market, that the Syrian refugees are now:
“changing landmarks in Beirut and its daily routine and Sunday market has had the lion's share from this change”. 
Yet this market has been historically one of the most visited places by poor working class Lebanese and Syrian and other migrant workers alike. But the author neglects that fact by saying that, before the Syrians came, it was a “quiet” shopping area. When one of the stall owners mentions the real problem of the continuous rising of stalls’ rent prices by the market’s Lebanese management: 
“Mohamad denies the increasing number of stalls in the market is a result of the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, and explains it on the basis that the price of a stall in Souk Al-Ahad is U.S. $175 per week, with raising prices permanently put up by the market management.” 
The author fails to pursue this issue, but continues to generally describe the Lebanese stall owners’ reaction to Syrian customers and vice versa.
The article overlooks the effects of rising rent prices and the reasons behind the hike in product prices, which many of the author’s interviewees mentioned in the article. One woman is reportedly saying: “Are Lebanese used to pay such prices or where they hiked just to welcome the Syrian visitor?” The author simply focuses on the antagonism that exists between Lebanese and Syrians, inadvertently contributing to the portrayal of an embedded racism, without showing who are the ones responsible or pulling the strings and fueling such racism.
The use of the word “Lebanese prestige” at the beginning of the article, to describe an assumed slow or quiet movement in the market before the influx of Syrian refugees, hints at a certain assumed bourgeois character of Lebanese citizens. It is then re-established by describing the “Lebanese corner” of the market, as being similar in shape to the bourgeois streets of downtown Beirut, compared to the popular character of the other stalls (where the author does not really say whether they are Lebanese or Syrian). 
The missing facts and questions for understanding the antagonism rising within the politics of this market are many. Who is the Lebanese management? Why did it hike the rent prices?,What were the reasons behind the rent hike? How did that impact the prices of goods sold in the market? Who was affected? How did that play in fueling or driving antagonistic sentiments between Syrian and Lebanese shoppers and stall operators?
Falling into the same problematic of media reporting in Lebanon when dealing with the question of racism against Syrian refugees is the continued focus on reporting “racist behavior,” whether in support or in condemnation. Either way, it is being enforced as the media fails to look into what drives it, what encourages it, and what are the conditions that are nourishing its propagation within society.
All in all, those responsible for economic policies in Lebanon, the establishment of working and accessible transportation systems, the management of markets, such as Souk Al-Ahad, are all outside the picture the media reports when tackling questions related to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The reader is left with two conclusions; either the Lebanese are inherently racist, as a unchanging fact, or Syrian refugees are greedy workers who steal jobs from poor Lebanese citizens.
The examples of media reporting on Syrian refugees in Lebanon are many and most follow these two stereotypes in one way or another. On rare occasions, articles point to the structural causes and the political environment that effortlessly manage to divert existing genuine resentment against the harsh conditions people face in Lebanon, through scapegoating “foreign elements.”
This culture of diversion, if it may be called as such, is not new. It has been a longstanding accompanying discourse of Lebanon’s ruling elite, in building their own political hegemony and preserving their rule. The ills of Lebanon are always relegated to being the result of interference of “stranger” and/or “foreign” elements. This is exceptionally true in the dominant discourses interpreting the causes of the long civil war that destroyed the country between 1975 and 1989, following which the ruling elite declared a general amnesty and resorted to explain the civil war as a result of the interference of “Palestinians” or “Syrians” in local Lebanese affairs. It was enough to divert attention from the real causes of the war, the State’s sectarianism being one of the major causes.
Yet this scapegoating is never done on the level of interfering governments or rich Arab and foreign interventionists. Quite the contrary, it has always been directed against migrant workers, refugees, workers, and the poor. It is exactly this economic or class element of this culture that is worrying. The opening quote of this article mentions that “it [Lebanon] treats my money”, making Lebanon a safe haven for the rich and, at the same time, a punitive establishment for the poor. The punishments is incited through sectarianism and racist and xenophobic strife and conflict.
In an environment of economic scarcity, hardship, and poverty, questions about who is more poor and more needy, among the poor, is directly and indirectly attempting to hide a more important and more crucial question, which is why do Syrian and Lebanese, whether in Lebanon or in Syria, have to live in poverty and hardship? In the mean time, projects for constructing billion-dollar shopping malls and sky-high expensive resorts and buildings are ongoing in different places around the country. It is that culture of not questioning poverty and scarcity,that allows and drives the development of racism, sectarianism, and xenophobia.
 As a result, it is the poor and the refugees who pay the price and they learn to replicate the same discourse within their own interpretations of reality: 
“We have covered larger sections of Lebanon and we have become too many to the extent that the Lebanese cannot tolerate us any longer. They have also increased their authority and control over us at work. Even some of them have stopped paying us our salaries. The hard living conditions are not the only reasons that make Syrian refugees line up at the doors of UNHCR, but also because in Lebanon they don’t feel that they are outside the Syrian crisis. Everyone in Lebanon wants to know where we are from, who we belong to. or who we support. This way, the Lebanese choose to deal with us based on our backgrounds”. Nasser fled with two generations from his family, all wanting to reach the West. It doesn’t matter which country they go to, what only matters is to get out of here. Nasser tells al-Akhbar newspaper on October 16th, 2012.
Stories and news reports about Syrian refugees in Lebanon are abundant in Lebanese media. Stories covering the refugees seem to cover almost all aspects of being a Syrian refugee in Lebanon. However, they are always portrayed in majority as having a “turbulent” effect on Lebanese society, without actually looking to the already existing turbulent conditions in the country. The fact that Syrian refugees are being coerced towards a refugee status is similar to that which many Lebanese faced during the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon or the Civil War. But it is mostly neglected or only used to justify support for the regime or segments of the opposition in Syria. It does not purport to show the striking similarities in hardships, oppression, and exploitation that both Syrian and Lebanese face, while living under the existing ruling orders; the continuous state of stagnation of reforms that both the Syrian and Lebanese regimes are facing; or the effects this stagnation has in terms of exacerbating social and civil injustices.
The media commands how people understand and interpret reality to a large extent. Thus, if the space is left for a shortsighted or deflected explanation of reality, this contributes, in one way or the other, to diverting people’s focus away from the real problems. Thus, it creates a culture of misinformation, which contradicts the democratic culture that the media presumably contributes to developing.
In conclusion, civil society organizations in Lebanon cannot continue treating Syrian refugees in Lebanon through a strictly humanitarian lens. They must be mindful of the prevailing discourses that shape people’s opinions about refugees. They should also systematically counter that discourse by putting pressure on media institutions, in addition to the State, and by developing alternative discourses. This could win people outside the racist and sectarian discourses and lead to a focus on real issues that people face and the shared experience both Lebanese and Syrians are facing and have faced in the past, in their struggle against exploitation and survival under oppression, exploitation, wars, and social injustices.