The kafala system also isn’t letting them breathe


George Floyd, yet another unarmed African American man who has died at the hands of a white police officer arresting him, has created a massive reaction amongst Americans and non-Americans which resulted in major protests on the streets calling for “black lives matter.” This is particularly interesting as it serves as a wake-up call that Racism still very much exists out there.

Lebanon on the other hand, has been sympathizing with Americans calling for equal rights, black lives matter, no to racism and in agreement with many other slogans portraying their support against discrimination. However, this is quite ironic. Although Lebanon is a country who believes in the principles of democracy, Lebanon encompasses one of the worse kinds of modern racism under the title of the ‘Kafala system’, which is no longer acceptable to turn an eye on.

The Kafala system involves a sponsor who holds the legal responsibility of a migrant domestic worker during the time-limit stated in the contract, which makes the domestic worker fully dependent on the sponsor. While the Kafala system is abusive by nature since workers are not subject to the Lebanese labor law, here are some of the main and known abusive actions that domestic workers face in Lebanon as provided by Amnesty International:

  • Passport confiscation
  • Long working hours, no breaks and no day off
  • Nonpayment, late payments and deductions from salary               
  • Restrictions on movement and communication
  • Food deprivation
  • Inadequate accommodation and lack of privacy
  • Verbal, physical and sexual abuse
  • Restrictions on access to health care
  • Impact on mental health

Inspired by the US Anti-Racism movements, some Lebanese have been calling for the abolishment of such a system. The issue has gained popularity when a footage went around on social media showing around 50 Ethiopian domestic workers abandoned by their employers as they were unable to pay their salaries; leaving them completely hopeless with no care. Additionally, Celebrity Naomi Campbell’s video that was published on social media earlier this week under the title “Do not go to Lebanon”, went viral as it shed light on how domestic workers in Lebanon are being treated like slaves. She mentioned how several workers have committed suicide due to the horrific working conditions they are placed under.

Will Smith could not have said it better, stating that: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s just being filmed.” To that end, it is time for Lebanese to revolve around the kafala system and abolish modern slavery.

Hope is within the new generation. It is time that the education system teaches slavery right. Improve legal and non-legal education about slavery as justice is solely reliant on you!


By: Lana Fadel

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