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What Does Slavery Look Like in Lebanon?

On August 24, 2011

This week, a BCC News article by Hannah McNeish was published and shared all over blogs and portals in the MiddleEast. It was highly disseminated and created a huge buzz in the region. It spoke of an issue tackled more and more with time, but almost unexceptionally on the surface only: “maid slaves”.

The article spoke of the story of Malagasy Abeline Baholiarisoa who spent 15 traumatic years of slave-like work under the Lebanese sponsorship system until she was able to go back home with 84 other women after her government chartered a plane to evacuate then early this year.

Abeline refers to her life in Lebanon as "a living hell" and described the eating and sleeping conditions and how they (in reference to herself and the other maid enslaved with her in the same house) did not even find the time to clean themselves.

Abeline, who agreed to come to Lebanon on the premises that (as the contract she signed dictated) she will be working as a nurse for a limited number of hours/day and for 800$/month for a 3 year contract found herself (like many others) instead working as a “maid” for 24 hours/ day and for less than 160/month. She used to pay her employer for the bits and pieces of food she ate.

The article also moved on to tackle “suicide” patterns and the constantly uninvestigated death cases. It then mentions stories of women who returned in coffins to Madagascar with missing organs. This was a very important eye opening report. If serious and tangible action on the ground is not going to be taken by government and people alike after this, I am not quite optimistic that any other time will inspire them to. If this does not move people enough, nothing else will.

When will Abelinea and other stop falling in those well-organized traps and when will we work on exposing the mafias behind this?