Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nari's Anniversary

Join Nari's 2nd year anniversary celebration this Sunday at Sabtieh.
All details on their event link:)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Congratulations to the New Unionists!

Domestic Workers in Lebanon just concluded the founding congress for the first trade union for domestic workers ever, in the 'Arab world'. This is a joyful, historic and long-awaited day for far too many workers and women. Starting now, there will be a united, solid, democratic, representing voice and this voice will challenge everyone, big and small, who is benefiting and feeding on the continuous, laid-back treatment of thousands of human beings as slaves. Congratulations to all domestic workers in Lebanon and may you inspire and ignite the flame for all your comrades in this boiling region. Power to workers. Power to domestic workers!

***
Here is the main chant for today-

Solidarity Forever, Solidarity Forever
Solidarity Forever, Solidarity Forever
For the union makes us strong

Peak at the Congress



أعضاء نقابة عاملات و عمال المنازل في لبنان يرددون:
"التضامن للأبد.النقابة تجعلنا أقوياء".

Watch video here.

Footage by Farfahine



Guitar class

at MCC in progress:)


Friday, January 23, 2015

بيان الإعتصام

معاً ضد قرار التأشيرة للاجئين/ات، المخزي والمعادي للإنسانية

والقرار الحكومي اللبناني الاخير، الصادر في شهر تشرين الأول عام 2014، والذي تبعه قرار تنفيذي للمديرية العامة للأمن العام، بتاريخ 31 كانون الأول، قضى بمنع دخول السوريين/ات الى لبنان، إلا بعد الحصول على تأشيرة مرتهنة بشروط بالغة القسوة، والإهانة، والتمييز، ليس الأول من نوعه. فقد سبقته قرارات أخرى، أولها قرار البلديات الذي يمنع السوريين/ات من التجول، في أوقات محددة؛ ومن ثم قرار وزير التربية الذي حرم عدداً كبيراً من التلاميذ/ات السوريين/ات من حقهم/ن في التعليم، بالإضافة إلى قرار وزير العمل، الذي بحجة وقف المنافسة، حرم السوريين/ات من فرص العمل، لتأمين لقمة عيشهم/ن.

وهكذا، فالحرب التي هرب منها السوريون/ات إلى لبنان، والتي يتشارك في شنها عليهم كلٌّ من النظام السوري، والميليشيات المتطرفة القروسطية الإجرامية، تتبعهم/ن إلى هنا، وتمتد من سياسات الترحيل، وإلغاء صفة اللجوء، وشن حملة مداهمات طالت جميع الأماكن التي يتواجد فيها اللاجئون/ات، والاعتقالات التعسفية، والإذلال في التفتيش، لتصل إلى الضرب، والتعذيب، والحرمان من أبسط شروط العيش الإنساني، وحتى حرق المخيمات، بين الحين والآخر. طبعاً هذا عدا الحرب الاقتصادية، التي تُشَن عليهم/ن، عبر رفع أسعار الإيجارات، والترويج لفكرة أن "السوري يسرق وظيفة اللبناني"، وإرغام اللاجئين/ات على دفع ثمن إقامتهم/ن الجبرية في خيم اللجوء إلى أصحاب الأراضي، وانتشار سماسرة اللجوء الذين يأخذون أموال السوريين/ات، ومن ثم يطردونهم/ن من أماكن لجوئهم/ن.

أمثالُ هذه القرارات لم يكن ما يسمونه "المجتمع الدولي" منزَّهاً عنها، إذ كان له، هو الآخر، دوره الخاص به، في إصدار قرارات مشابهة، منها تخفيض المساعدات المالية والغذائية، الذي عمدت إليه منظمات دولية، مثل "الأونروا"، و"المفوضية العليا لشؤون اللاجئين". وجميع هذه القرارات أرغمت الكثير من اللاجئين/ات على الرجوع لسوريا، على الرغم من خطورة هذه العودة.

وبالطبع، فهذه القرارات والممارسات ليست وليدة الصدفة، بل هي ضمن خطة ممنهجة لـ"تطفيش" السوري/ة، وإرغامه/ا على العودة إلى بلده/ا. فمنذ بدء الثورة، كان موقف السلطة اللبنانية واضحاً، حيث رفضت الاعتراف باللاجئين، بصفتهم هذه، مع ما يرتبه ذلك عليها من التزامات تنص عليها القرارات الدولية المتعلقة بحقوق الإنسان وحقوق اللاجئين، التي هي جزء أساسي من مقدمة الدستور. والآن، وفي معرض تبرير هذه السياسات التعسفية، يقول وزراء في الحكومة اللبنانية إن "لبنان ليس ببلد لجوء". هكذا يحافظ النظام اللبناني على نفسه، عبر مساهمته، في ما يخصُّه، في مسعى أطرافٍ إقليمية (من ضمنها النظام السوري، بالذات، وباقي الانظمة العربية)، ودولية، شتى، لاستكمال القضاء على السيرورة الثورية، في البلد المعني، عبر بث العنصرية، وروح المنافسة بين العامل/ة السوري/ة والعامل/ة اللبناني/ة.

طبعاً، إن هذه القرارات لا تهدف فقط إلى دفع السوريين/ات للرحيل، بل تزيد من هشاشة وضعهم/ن؛ الأمر الذي يزيد من نسب الاستغلال تجاههم/ن. وبالتأكيد، فهذه القرارات لن تغير من وضع العامل/ة اللبناني/ة. كما أنها لن تحسِّن من أوضاع المناطق المضيفة. فالحكومات المتعاقبة لم تعمد يوماً إلى وضع خطط إنمائية لهذه المناطق، وإلى تطبيقها، ما قبل اللجوء، ولن تفعل ذلك بعده.




FYI

General Security is still expelling innocent migrant workers from Lebanon, mostly women and children! They continue to do so without making any official statement, without referring to any specific rule or law, without responding to NGOs' questions, and without considering migrant workers' appeals!

Our twist on IMPACT BBDO and Pikasso's xenophobic ad campaign - part 1.

Have you seen IMPACT BBDO and Pikasso's xenophobic campaign littering the streets of Beirut? 
We find it crass, offensive, and irresponsible, as it feeds resentment towards foreigners in Lebanon, and let’s face it, especially Syrians. This is how most people we’ve encountered have understood it. To respond to this campaign, we’ve come up with our own! Here's the first in our series. Stay tuned for more in the next few days!




Monday, January 19, 2015

معاً ضد قرار الأمن العام اللبناني بشأن دخول السوريين/ات إلى لبنان والإقامة فيه

وقفة احتجاجية من أجل الدعوة لإلغاء القرار ولبذل أقصى التضامن مع السوريين/ات اللاجئين/ات من جحيم النظام السوري والميليشيات المُتطرفة. 

تدعوكم مجموعات ناشطة في لبنان وناشطون/ات مُستقلون/ات إلى المُشاركة بالوقفة الاحتجاجية ضد قرار الأمن العام الجائر الصادر بتاريخ 31/12/2014 بهدف تنظيم دخول السوريين/ات إلى لبنان. إن التضامن هو أساس الإنسانية، ومهمة كل المُقيمين/ات في لبنان تتمثل في محاربة التمييز والعنصرية. 

الجهات الداعية: 
صوت النسوة
المنتدى الاشتراكي
الحملة الداعمة للسوريين بوجه العنصرية
الحركة المناهضة للعنصرية
جدران بيروت
ناشطون/ات مُستقلون/ات

شاركوا/ن معنا في التحرك الأولي وتواصلوا/ن معنا لمزيد من المعلومات عن كيفية

Mixed Feelings: Identity, ‘Race’ and Family in Lebanon

Join us for the opening of "Mixed Feelings: Identity, ‘Race’ and Family in Lebanon", a selection of text and photos from the personal archives of 16 Lebanese families of African / Asian heritage.

DATE:
6 PM, Thursday January 29

Fb event

TALK:
7 PM with Marta Bogdanska and Nisreen Kaj (project team), and Rania Masri (Associate Director at Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship).

PLACE:
Showing at Artscape, Makhoul Street, Hamra, (same street as Barometre, located between 3ind Riad Printing and Sky Suites).


The project will remain on display at Artscape until February 14.

For directions to Artscape: 70 037 367 or 76 813 692.
For information on the project: nisreenkaj@gmail.com or tobiku@gmail.com

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"Mixed Feelings" is a social-visual project that uses a combination of images and words to highlight the issue of racism in contemporary Lebanon. It aims at unpacking and examining ‘race’, racialization, racism, ‘othering’, and different modes of exclusion and inclusion in Lebanon; and creating dialogue and debate around these issues / subjects.

The "Mixed Feelings" project is in cooperation with Heinrich Böll Stiftung Middle East.

A troubling homage to the hired help

DailyStar

BEIRUT: A dark-skinned woman with long black hair, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a simple yellow T-shirt, vacuums a rug.

Behind her, a large window reveals a view of a blue sky, marbled with fluffy white clouds, and the tops of a row of tall pines.

Captured in a bold, highly textured oils by Lebanese artist Rima Amyuni, this scene depicts an ordinary moment in the life of the artist’s maid, Dany. Entitled “Dany with Pine Trees,” the piece is one of a series of eight paintings and two charcoal drawings currently on show at Agial Art Gallery, all of them featuring Dany.

Painter Tagreed Darghouth held her second solo show “Fair and Lovely” at the same venue in 2010. Her works focused on maids suffering abuse from their employers, and the high number of runaways who end up on Lebanon’s streets.

Amyuni’s exhibition doesn’t seek to elicit the same kind of reflection upon the predicament of Lebanon’s migrant domestic workers. An artist who prefers to paint from direct observation, often taking the landscapes around her house in Yarzé as her subject, Amyuni paints Dany much as she might a tree or a flower.

The fact that she chooses to return to Dany as a subject betrays the affection the artist feels for her employee. The choice of exhibition title, “A Tribute to a House Fairy,” was no doubt selected with good intentions. Yet its faintly patronizing tone exemplifies some of the troubling issues embedded within this show.


Born in 1954, Amyuni studied art in London and New York. Her bold, colorful canvases are executed in a faux naive style – a deliberate decision to work as an outsider artist, gallerist Saleh Barakat says.

Her portraits capture Dany posing at Amyuni’s request – sitting beside a vase of sunflowers or standing in the artist’s studio in a startling mauve suit – as well hard at work around the house. Dany vacuums. She irons. She peels potatoes. Amyuni paints it all.

To display these paintings at all, the gallerist suggests, is something of a daring move for a commercial gallery. After all, who would want to hang a picture of a maid in the living room?

Barakat sees the work as subversive, a means of bestowing status upon a class of people whose existence and rights in Lebanon are often completely overlooked. This highlights one of the exhibition’s problematic aspects. Issues of social class, ethnicity, power and agency are raised, but not addressed – a herd of elephants left to knock about the room.

What would really be subversive, of course, would be to show artwork by a migrant domestic worker or laborer. That seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

Amyuni’s tribute to her employee shows a woman defined by her work. The one painting that seems to capture something more – conveying a sense of the subject’s individuality – is entitled “Dany and Elizabeth.” In it, Dany stands in the street, hand extended toward a black woman of a similar age.



The two figures are captured with their hands almost touching, fingers curled, as though about to bump fists. The distance between their hands is small enough to be bridged by an extended index finger, but looms as large as the thumbnail-width chasm between God and man in Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.”

In his catalogue essay “The Painter and her Model,” art critic Joseph Tarrab writes that, according to Amyuni, “Dany readily lends herself to the one-hour sittings” and “favorably comments” on her portraits, even when they are unflattering.

By contrast, Dany’s friend Elizabeth, a domestic worker from Kenya, didn’t like Amyuni’s painting – and said so. “While as usual Dany appreciates,” Tarrab writes, “Elizabeth, shocked, recoils, feels abused, scorned in her dignity, wounded in her humanity, working herself up to a hysterical crisis that requires her sending off to her country.”

It’s lucky that Dany is such a fan of Amyuni’s work.



The artist chose to exhibit the painting regardless, Tarrab writes, because “here, there is no philosophical, ethical, metaphysical, social, political or other background ... The problems that she faces are purely pictorial and the finished canvas is the solution.”

What Elizabeth might think of this statement is impossible to say, but some visitors to the gallery might find it a little hard to swallow. Amyuni’s colorful, figurative paintings may or may not appeal on an aesthetic level. In either case, to divorce them from the complexity of the social and ethical issues from which they emerge, and which they arouse, would be to do them a disservice.

To deny art’s ability to address complex subjects and provoke independent viewpoints is to undermine its worth.

Rima Amyuni’s “A Tribute to a House Fairy” is on show at Agial Art Gallery in Hamra until Jan. 30. For more information, please call 01-345-213.




- See more a

No-one is illegal: A new life at 25

All the luck to Aida!
Read, share and support, please! :)

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Hi, my name is Aida. I’m 25 years old, born and raised in Lebanon. My father is from Morocco and my mother is from the Seychelles Islands. I was born without any legal papers in Lebanon, and I have been told throughout my life that I would never be able to get legal status here.

I left home at the age of 18; my mother died two years later, and I lost contact with my father, who was extremely physically abusive.

At the age of 24 I obtained a Moroccan passport, but, since it contained no visas, I was still ‘illegal’ in the eyes of the Lebanese government. Throughout my life I have been in constant fear of police, checkpoints and the security services; they could deport me as soon as they found I didn’t have the correct documents – being born and raised in Lebanon, and having never known another world, you can imagine how terrifying that prospect was.

There is only so long I can carry on living in this situation – the constant fear and the inability to find decent work. It is unsustainable financially and psychologically, and could end up with my arrest. I wish I was the one to blame for being in this situation, but I can’t help being born into a poor family and being illegal in the only country I have ever known.

But I have recently been presented with the opportunity to leave Lebanon and get to Morocco – and out of Lebanon for the first time in my life – without being deported. I would learn for the first time what it’s like not to live in fear, not to panic whenever I see a cop on the streets, and to finally feel accepted somewhere.

Travelling would give me the chance, for the first time in 25 years, to live without constant fear of the authorities, and to try and lead a normal life. My only problem is that I have no family in Morocco and living alone as a young black woman is extremely difficult. My most feasible option is to go and stay with friends in Turkey (once I fix my papers in Morocco) from where I can attempt to get a Seychelles passport (which gives me much greater freedom than a Moroccan passport).

I am now looking to raise 3500 pounds before I leave for Morocco. This money would be used to pay for accommodation in Morocco, a visa and ticket to Turkey, accommodation and living expenses in Turkey, and the expenses required to obtain a Seychelles passport, with enough to spare to try and start a new life. My friends in Beirut are doing all they can to help, but I have so far been able to raise only a small amount of money and I am having to look elsewhere to find funds in a relatively short period of time.

So this is why I am now reaching out to the wider community to financially support me during this period; any amount would be really appreciated, and I will always remember the kindness of strangers.

Have a read below if you want to find out more about how I’ve been living in Beirut over the past 25 years.


More about me:

I was lucky enough growing up to go to a decent school. But I stopped studying during my final years – what was the point of studying if I could not graduate, find a job, or travel anywhere outside of Lebanon, given I had no legal papers?

My childhood was tough. I come from a poor family whose only breadwinner was my mother, illegally working to support us. She would get beaten up by my father almost every day. I can remember so few calm nights where I wouldn’t have my mother crying on my shoulder over what was happening to her. I was torn between my love and hatred towards my father, and between being a mother and a parent and being my mother’s best friend instead of a daughter. My own identity was as confused as you can imagine, being a young illegal black girl living in a racist Middle Eastern society. I learnt how to be independent in order to have a balanced life, but that could only last till a certain age, at which point to be sane I had to leave. The longer I stayed at home, the more I was being eaten on the inside. So I would disappear for days, until I realized that my mother was disappearing too, growing sicker every day. We could not afford proper care, and I knew that in order to help myself and, in the long term, my ill mother, I had to leave home and find a job.

My mother passed away 2 years later.

I was able to get my Moroccan nationality and passport at 24 but my situation was still at risk. It contained no visas, so I was still ‘illegal’ in the eyes of the Lebanese government. I lived in constant fear of police, checkpoints and the security services; they could deport me as soon as they found I didn’t have the correct documents – being born and raised in Lebanon, and having never known another world, you can imagine how terrifying that prospect was.

I took on any waitressing jobs I could. But then I found a fantastic job, working as the executive assistant of a dance group and wedding entertainment; I would manage meetings with clients, rehearsals with dancers, costumes, dance schedules etc, as well as performing myself. But this job was only highlighting my presence in show business – I couldn’t afford being seen out there on stage, in a video or in a photo without fearing that someone from the general security department would spot a black girl dancing and investigate me. So I had to quit and go back to waitressing.

Lebanon was my only home; my friends here are my only family. I’m be willing to put all that behind me and leave, just to be able, at 25 years old, to start a new life with no fear.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

(Syrian) black skin, (Lebanese) white masks

Mahmoud Mroueh on Open Democracy
Life in Lebanon has become more grueling for Syrian refugees since I wrote on the proliferation of anti-Syrian sentiment amongst the Lebanese back in September.
Hostile attitudes towards our Syrian ‘guests’, while already prevalent, have steadily become more dominant and more pronounced. A particularly shameful article (Arabic) titled “Hamra [Street] is no longer Lebanese…Syrian expansion has altered its identity” caused an uproar when it was published in An-Nahar’s print and online editions on January 6, 2015. An-Nahar is Lebanon’s most widely-circulated newspaper and one of its oldest and most prestigious. The article deserves to be examined, not for its merit, but because it contains a damning caricature - that unintentionally borders on the satirical - of the specifically bourgeois variant of Lebanese anti-Syrian bigotry.
In addition to having to deal with a hostile population and vitriolic media, new entry policies put in place by the Lebanese government have severely restricted access into Lebanon for Syrian refugees fleeing the war back home. Finally, an exceptionally harsh winter spent in dismal, ill-equipped shelters (if any) coupled with the temporary suspension of the World Food Programme’s much-needed aid distribution programs have made life unbearable for many of Lebanon’s Syrian refugees.

Borders

The flow of refugees into Lebanon has, until recently, continued unabated. According to a recent UNHCR report, there are 257 Syrian refugees per 1,000 inhabitants inside Lebanon today, making Lebanon the country with the highest refugee density in the world. The Lebanese government took its first concrete step towards limiting the influx of Syrian refugees into the country in October of 2014, when entry procedures for Syrian nationals were tightened. Syrians classified as ‘displaced’, as opposed to visitors who would eventually return, could be refused entry on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of Lebanon’s General Security apparatus. These procedures were formalized and finally put into effect on January 5.
Syrian and Lebanese nationals have historically enjoyed the right to cross into either country without the need for a visa, ever since Syria and Lebanon came to exist as independent nation states following independence from French colonialism in the 1940s. But this has now changed. Syrian nationals who wish to cross into Lebanon must now apply for one of six visa types at the border and have their applications approved by General Security.
Category I visas include tourism visas, business visas, and visas for real estate owners. Tourism visas are granted for a period equal to the duration of the applicant’s hotel reservation, business visas are granted for a maximum of one month, and real estate owner visas are granted for a maximum of six months. Category II visas are student visas, and they are initially granted for a duration of one week and then extended when proof of enrollment in an educational institution is provided. Category III visas are transit visas, granted to those who wish to enter Lebanon in order to travel through one of the country’s seaports or airport. These visas are granted for a duration of 48 hours for air travelers and 24 hours for those who wish to travel by sea.
Medical visas are category IV visas, and they are granted for an initial duration of 72 hours and can later be renewed, only once, for another 72 hours. Category V visas are granted for a duration of 48 hours to Syrian nationals who wish to visit a foreign embassy on Lebanese soil. Finally, category VI visas are reserved for those Syrian nationals who do not fall under any of the above-mentioned categories. Syrian nationals who apply for this visa category must obtain an ‘oath of liability’ from a Lebanese citizen who is willing to vouch for them, and take full responsibility for their ‘stay and their actions’. This visa is granted for a duration of five days, and it can be renewed twice after this 5 day period for a maximum of 6 months.
It is worth noting that Lebanese citizens are still allowed to enter Syria without applying for a visa, and the Lebanese government’s decision prompted a strong response from the Syrian government, delivered by Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, who went so far as to threaten closing the Syrian border to Lebanese exports. “Lebanon would be harmed more than Syria”, he said. It is immediately evident that the new visa system was designed to compartmentalise Syrian nationals based on class; if you have money and assets you are allowed to stay, and if you are poor you are unwelcome, which brings us back to Hussein Hazouri’s horrid piece in An-Nahar. It is immediately evident that the new visa system was designed to compartmentalise Syrian nationals based on class; if you have money and assets you are allowed to stay, and if you are poor you are unwelcome, which brings us back to Hussein Hazouri’s horrid piece in An-Nahar.

The Lebanese 'white mask'

Hazouri begins by stating that Beirut’s Hamra Street, a historically cultural and intellectual hub and one of Beirut’s busiest streets, has turned “black” – an allusion to the Syrian skin tone, which Hazouri believes is darker than that of the Lebanese. He later says, “[Hamra is full of] people who have that dark skin that the Lebanese very well know is Syrian”.
Not only is Hazouri making the claim that Syrians have darker skin than do the Lebanese, he also repeatedly insinuates that dark skin is somehow inferior to lighter skin. I personally cannot tell a Syrian apart from a Lebanese. The borders that divide the Levant today were imposed through colonialism and are less than a century old. At the risk of stating the obvious, almost no correlation exists between modern national identities - in the context of centuries of free movement and intermarriage (which back then was just marriage) in such a small region, in addition to other factors, too numerous to count, that are unique to the Levant  - and physical attributes. So why does Hazouri believe Syrians have darker skin than the Lebanese? Lebanese anthropologist and social worker Lamia Moghnieh answered the question quite nicely in this excellent blog post:  
“While Lebanese spend an incredible amount of time everyday trying to shape their bodies, skin, postures, accents and clothes to resemble and pass as the coveted European and American body, the Syrian body, a constant reminder of what they actually resemble, becomes so threatening to their modern and civilized aspirations that it needs to be recreated and reproduced as essentially different from the Lebanese body.”
The Lebanese fashion the Syrian body in such a way so that they may forge an identity from the imagined contradistinction that exists between how they perceive the Syrian body, and thus the Syrian, and how they perceive themselves. This dark skin that all Syrians are supposedly characterized with is perceived as being inferior to lighter skin, because it is associated with poverty and uncleanliness.
As I’ve argued before, the stereotype was partly inspired by the sunburned skin of Syrian migrant workers who comprise the largest part of the labor force in construction and agriculture, and who toil under the sun from dawn till dusk in every part of the country in return for meager wages. These are the Syrians who the Lebanese most often encountered. Economists disagree on the number of Syrian workers present in Lebanon before 2011, with numbers ranging from anywhere between 250,000 to 1,200,000 in the 1990s.The real figure hovered between 300,000 and 500,000 throughout the first decade of the 21st century.
Syrian workers comprised the bulk of Lebanon’s Syrian population, but they were also more visible than the rest of the (more affluent) Syrian population, who cannot be distinguished from wealthy Lebanese. It is important to mention that colonialism and imperialism are also responsible for the internalised racism and reverence for everything western and ‘white’ that dominates Lebanese society and other parts of the developing world. After the article was published, Syrians and Lebanese took to social media websites to mock the article with memes that satirically highlighted the supposed differences in skin tones that exist between the Lebanese and the Syrians as per Hazouri, and businesses in Hamra issued a joint-statement condemning the article as racist, and denying the claims made by Hazouri with regards to how Syrian refugees are ‘bad for business’.
Hazouri’s article is as abhorrently classist as it is racist, which is to be expected – it always boils down to class. What seems to bother Hazouri most is having to deal with the unwelcome intrusion of homeless Syrian refugees on his little bourgeois bubble of joie de vivre. Hazouri included a rather indicative quote in his article, from a 22 year old restaurant employee who works on Hamra. “The Syrians have occupied the country, which pushes many Lebanese to avoid the area because of all the beggars and the vulgar, low class scenes (of poor Syrian refugees) that dominate this area of Beirut.” This kind of rhetoric is regularly spewed by Lebanon’s upper classes, as was showcased by this brilliant satirical piece, which actually contains a terrifyingly accurate portrayal of reality. Lebanon’s wealthy very loudly and continuously voice their complaints about the Syrian refugee situation, when they are in fact the least-affected by it, if at all.
This is in no way unique to Lebanon’s elite of course, but to the wealthy everywhere, for “the philosophy of enjoyment was never anything but the clever language of certain social circles who had the privilege of enjoyment.” Some of Lebanon’s poorer agricultural regions are close to breaking point, this cannot be denied, and yet the residents of these areas - who have suffered the most as a result of this crisis - have consistently been the most compassionate towards Syrian refugees.
One Lebanese family I personally know of in the south is housing a Syrian family of 11 in its cramped and extremely modest house. Stories of solidarity like this one are all too common, and the sacrifices these people make are real, as opposed to the feel-good activism (what they call giving money that they do not need) of Lebanon’s upper classes. They whine when it is in fact the poor, both Syrian and Lebanese, who bear the brunt of this crisis.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

نعم للعنصرية اللبنانية : عماد قميحة

من سيء إلى أسوأ... 
القليل من الإنسانية والتضامن والمنطق لم ولن يقتل أحداً.
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وها نحن نكررالان نفس التجربة مع الاخوة اللاجئين السوريين، فما ان يطل احدنا بقلل من النقد والانتقاد لسلوكيات بعضهم او لممارسات تتخطى حدود المصلحة الوطنية حتى ينبري كثيرون لرميه والتهجم عليه بأقذع الصفات ليس اقلها التهمة الجاهزة سلفا وهي " العنصرية "، وكأنه مكتوب علينا نحن اللبنانيون ان نكون دائما ضحايا القضايا العادلة، وان يدفع وطننا ثمن احتضانه لمعاناة إخواننا من سوريين وفلسطينيين خوفا من تهمة " العنصرية "

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rich Kids of Lebanon Complain: The Syrians Are Cramping Our Style

'“I can’t remember the last time I had brunch comfortably, like with no thoughts in my head. I feel weighed down all the time,” shared Jad, 17. “Going to brunch is now like a chore, I see Syrian refugees under my building, and then when I give my car to the valet there’s always a Syrian beggar standing right there. Why aren’t these kids in school? I mean seriously, just go to school in Syria.”

Somewhere in between their world of “you can’t arrest me, my dad will kill you,” and “you can’t fail me, my dad will kill you,” these teenagers have finally been forced to stare reality in the face, and they don’t like what they see. Despite having refuge of their own in their $2.3 million homes scattered around Beirut, the teens’ harrowing brush with Syrians is not limited to brunch time. Their Goldschläger filled nights are also tainted by what they so aptly call “the Syrians.”'

Continue reading at Beirut.com

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Migrant, Woman, Writer: The Many Hats of Efrata Kassassa

Full piece on Yemen Times

'People making the journey from the Horn of Africa often come to Yemen to escape poverty, persecution, war and state violence. Efrata Kasassa, 22, came to Yemen to be a writer.

Her first book, which she hopes to self-publish, is also about an Ethiopian girl who migrates to Yemen. Hardly known as a land of opportunity, Yemen was Efrata’s destination because of its proximity to Ethiopia. It’s often a transit country for migrants seeking better employment prospects in the Gulf and elsewhere.

But for Efrata, Yemen was the destination. She knew people who had migrated to Yemen, and was confident she could receive help from the Ethiopian embassy to publish her work. In order to raise funds, she has taken a number of jobs, mostly cleaning homes and offices. She is also the barista at the cafe of a cultural foundation in Sana’a, the Basement.

Her work schedule doesn’t leave a lot of room for writing, but Efrata did not come all the way to Yemen to lose sight of her goal.'

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Domestic workers in Lebanon fight for right to join union

"Lebanon could become the first Arab state to allow migrant domestic workers into a labor union if the country’s labor ministry approves a proposal submitted by the National Federation of Labor Unions."

Full piece on AlJazeera

***

The ministry announced on Monday that it had received the proposal, and that it was studying whether Lebanese labor law protects the right of migrant domestic workers to be in a union.

An estimated 200,000 migrant laborers are employed as domestic workers in Lebanon, according to a May 2014 report by the human rights group Anti-Slavery. Those workers, many of whom are Nepalese, are routinely subject to abusive practices that range from “non-payment of wages and no time off to forced and bonded labor and servitude,” according to the report. Of the employers surveyed by Anti-Slavery, fewer than 20 percent allowed their domestic workers to take a day off and leave the house.

The domestic workers seeking union recognition want to force a change to the kafala system, a labor law regime employed throughout much of the Arab world.

Under the kafala system, migrant laborers require a sponsor to remain in the country, typically their employer. The arrangement leaves migrant workers almost wholly dependent on their employers because if they try to leave their jobs, they lose their legal status. Millions of migrant workers across the Middle East are employed under the kafala system and similar laws.

“The kafala system constitutes an asymmetrical relationship between employer and employee,” according to the Anti-Slavery report. “It leaves room for many rights violations, such as confinement to the house, no time to rest, no day off, no right to quit, non-payment of salaries, physical and sexual abuse, etc."

Domestic workers in Lebanon sometimes take desperate measures to break free from their employers. In November 2014, an Ethiopian maid leapt to her death from her employer’s balcony. Less than one month later, a Kenyan woman was seriously injured during an escape attempt from her employer’s third-floor apartment.

In the face of widespread outcry over the system, Bahrain claimed in 2009 it would repeal kafala rules. However, the Bahraini government’s subsequent reforms were cosmetic at best according to the nonprofit Migrant Rights.

A 2014 report from the Human Rights Watch noted that some Lebanese government officials had gestured at the possibility of reforming kafala, but the impact of those reforms has thus far been “limited."

Sheila Bapat, author of "Part of the Family?: Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers' Rights," told Al Jazeera in an email, “Regardless of the system, when employers control domestic workers’ papers and legal status, workers have no independence of their own. These types of systems breed exploitation."

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موظفة امميه تدعو اللاجئين السودانيين للرجوع لبلدهم


Thursday, January 1, 2015

No one should work this way – Asian domestic workers endure staggering abuse

Full piece on Al-Akhbar English

'Over the past two years I traveled around Asia with Steve McCurry, a photographer known for fascinating faces, particularly the one on the cover of National Geographic magazine known as the “Afghan Girl,” to document the abuse some domestic workers endure at the hands of their household employers, either in their own country or abroad.

We found cases of child labor, forced labor, human trafficking, rape, starvation, excessive working hours, little or no pay and restricted freedom of movement or communication. We spoke with workers who had been beaten with a pot, a mop, a broom, a stick, a hanger, a cane and a metal pipe. We heard of women coming home in a coma or a coffin.





The victims were female and male, young and old, educated and illiterate (and their abusers also varied – female and male, rich and middle-class, living in Asia and in the Middle East). What linked them was a toxic combination of desperation, born out of poverty, and a lack of legal protection – in most countries, domestic workers are not protected by employment laws. In some societies, they are treated as “property” and not as individuals or even workers entitled to equal treatment and rights as most other workers.

We met a Nepali woman who had been blinded from repeated beatings by her female employer in Saudi Arabia and had had feces rubbed into her face. An Indonesian woman’s back was heavily scarred – almost in the shape of angel wings – by boiling water that her male employer in Malaysia had thrown on her. I tried to count the scars on another Indonesian woman’s body but lost track after reaching 20; she did not know what her male employer in Taiwan had used to cause many of them, including the slash across her face.

In Nepal we interviewed a pregnant woman who, when she told her female employer in Oman that her policeman husband had raped her, was thrown into prison for three months for seduction. Pregnant, she was in hiding because she feared her family would desert her. Another Nepali woman, hired by a family in Kuwait to look after 13 children, was beaten because she resisted working in the family’s brothel.

In a Hong Kong shelter Indonesian woman recalled how her female employer spoke to her: “Come here, dog. You are stupid. You are a dog. Helper, come here.” Also in Hong Kong we met another woman from Indonesia who had been given only bread in the mornings, instant noodles for lunch and leftovers (if there were any) for dinner. Her weight dropped more than 30 pounds before she finally ran away.

I met a Filipina who told me she had been given the top of the washing machine to sleep on. She giggled when explaining that her male employer liked to wash clothes at night time, so she had to lay there while the machine shook. She didn’t really think it was funny, but what could she do – the law in Hong Kong, one of the few places in the world that actually has legislation that covers domestic workers, requires them to live in the homes of their employers. Never mind that the “room” they may be given is a cupboard, a stairwell, a bathroom – or the top of a washing machine.

And we met an Indonesian woman whose employment agency staff tried to talk her into accepting a wage increase if she would stay with her mentally and physically abusive female employer. She feared for her life and wanted out. The employer had once said, “If I hit you and kill you, no one will know.” The agency then placed another woman in that home. Earlier this year, Hong Kong streets erupted in a massive protest against the abuse and inhumane conditions after a photo emerged of a young woman, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, severely battered from beatings and medical neglect she endured by that same female employer. A different agency had placed her, but employment agents are also culpable in the abuse.

When another Indonesian woman we met had run away in Malaysia because of beatings by her young male employer, the police took her back and her employment agent threatened legal action if she tried to run again. Many domestic workers have their passports taken from them by their employer or agent after arriving in a foreign country, which is one reason why they find it difficult to leave when the abuse starts. Many don’t know where to go. Many are just so desperate to send money home that they endure as best they can.

That same woman who had run away had lost a front tooth when her male employer threw a shoe at her for heating up the “wrong” soup and whose ear is now permanently deformed from his constant twisting of it. She is reluctantly considering going abroad again as a maid because her husband can find no work.

These are not uncommon experiences.'

Happy New Year!

ARM's new year resolution: to give lots of anti-racism sessions in schools! Help us connect with your school, whether you're a teacher, student, or graduated years ago but still in touch with people at your old school. Inbox us if interested!