Maid in Lebanon: Ethiopian and Lebanese Reactions to the Death of Alem, and Slavery in Lebanon


“How can a country, which has endured so much recent pain through war, civil strife, and foreign incursion, not recognize the humanity of domestic workers like Alem?” I pondered while watching Mahfouz force her into the car, while she kicked, pleaded and cried for help.

I could not understand her words, but her cries were familiar — they sounded like our Lebanese neighbors’ when she received news of her son’s death in 1987 during the civil war; or the sobs and whimpers of orphaned children whose parents were massacred in Sabra and Shatila.

Yet this time, we were the villains not the victims, which compelled me to face-off with racism within my community, expose the systemic dehumanization of domestic workers in Lebanon, and find avenues with members of the Ethiopian community committed to fighting modern slavery and pursuing justice for Alem.


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