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Lebanon: Four Ethiopian Maids Commit Suicide in 12 Days

On November 2, 2009

In just 12 days during October, there have four reported cases of Ethiopian maids who ended their lives in Lebanon: Tezeta Yalmiya (26) jumped from a third-floor balcony in Abra on October 28; 30-year-old Saneet Miriam fell to her death from a balcony in Mestita on October 24; Matente Kebede Zeditu (26) hung herself from a tree in Haris on October 20; and Kassaye Atsegenet (24), fell to her death from the seventh floor in Gemayze, Beirut on October 16.

NOW Lebanon carried a story yesterday about this string of suicides. They interviewed an Ethiopian maid in her 20s, who described how the severe physical and verbal abuse she suffered from her employer and his children drove her to attempt suicide by drinking cleaning liquid. She was kept locked in the house, and when she was able to escape, she turned to the Ethiopian consulate in Lebanon. She was then turned over to her employment agency, which returned her back to the house of the abusive family. After her abuse resumed, she attempted the suicide, but failed. She spent over a year with the family until she was able to flee for good. Nadim Houry of HRW and a former local community organizer of Ethiopians in Lebanon said that what drives these maids to suicide are their poor living conditions, abuse from employers, "treatment as second-class-citizen", and isolation.