Friday, March 12, 2010

Lebanon: Filipina maid becomes the first suicide in the New Year

The body of a 28-year-old Filipina worker who arrived in Lebanon several months ago to work as a domestic workers was found dead on the pavement in Beirut’s Sanayeh district on Monday after the woman allegedly jumped from the building of employer.

Reporting from the scene, Al-Akhbar reports, "Crooked hand, with its bottom penetrated by the wrist bone. Fingers looking as if they are about to grab something. A small stream of blood creeping from under the cover transpiring the color of the shroud. Close to that white thing, a bunch of security officers are gathered. On the opposite side, is parked an ambulance, from the firefighters department, on which two men are leaning. As for the location, it was in Georges Assi str., behind the Sanayeh garden. The scene was harsh, with whispers mixed with tears, people from the neighborhood said it's the "body of a maid from the Philippines who jumped from her employer's balcony, Y.H., all the way from the seventh floor." A representative from the Philippines embassy said that she is Maria (born in 1981), a girl who left her homeland, coming to Lebanon two months ago to work as a "maid in a house". He did not know what happened to her. He remains silent for a moment and looks at the hand poking out from under the cover, on his face you can see that he is still under shock, then he utters: "This is the first suicide in this new year."

اليد ملتوية، يخترق أسفلها عظم المعصم. الأصابع تبدو كأنها ستطبق على شيء ما. جدولٌ صغير من الدم وجد طريقه من أسفل ذلك الغطاء الذي يحمل لون الكفن. قرب ذلك الشيء الأبيض، يجتمع عدد من رجال الأمن. وتقف في الجهة المقابلة له، سيارة إسعاف تابعة للدفاع المدني يستند إليها رجُلَان. أما المكان فهو شارع جورج عاصي الكائن خلف حديقة الصنائع.

المشهد كان قاسياً، اختلط الهمس بالدموع، يقول أهل الحي إنها «جثة عاملة فيليبينية قفزت من منزل مخدومها ي. ح. في الطبقة السابعة». ويقول مندوب السفارة الفيليبينية إنها ماريا (مواليد 1981)، فتاة تركت وطنها قاصدة لبنان قبل نحو شهرين لتعمل «خادمة في أحد المنازل». لا يعرف المندوب ماذا جرى لها. يصمت قليلاً وينظر إلى اليد البارزة أسفل ذلك الغطاء، نظرته توحي أنه لم يستفق بعد من هول المنظر، ويتابع: «إنها حالة الانتحار الأولى في العام الجديد».

According to eyewitnesses, the body remained in the streets for several hours before police or rescue workers appeared to investigate and collect the body. "An hour and a half after the incident, which took place at around 1:30PM. Criminal evidence men arrived to the scene and examined the site. But still, the body was not moved, it remained there on the ground for three hours. Al-Akhbar asked a police officer, present on the scene, why the body was left there for so long, his answer was that they are still waiting for the forensic doctor to examine her."

مرّت ساعة ونصف ساعة على الحادث الذي وقع عند حوالى الساعة الواحدة ظهراً. حضر رجال الأدلة الجنائية، وأجروا كشفاً على موقع الحادث. لكن رغم ذلك، لم تُحرّك الجثة من مكانها، بقيت على الأرض لنحو ثلاث ساعات. سألت «الأخبار» ضابطاً في قوى الأمن كان موجوداً في المكان عن سبب ترك الجثة كل هذه المدة، فأجاب بأنهم ينتظرون الطبيب الشرعي ليكشف عليها.

In Lebanon, racism continues to marginalize individuals who come from Africa and Asia to escape poverty and create a better life for their families. The death of this human being seemed to be of no concern for residents in the area as eyewitnesses also reported that some cars even came close to running over the woman's body.

As noted by a comment by a passerby at the scene, "Everyone is still waiting for the forensic doctor. In the meantime, a passerby comments: "Thank God she didn't fall on anyone's car, that would have been a disaster". The forensic doctor is late, and people are speculating about the circumstances of the death. Some cleared the employer, emphasizing his good manors with neighbors, while others whisper that maybe it is ill-treatment that pushed her to "commit suicide". Between the two, some say that she cut her wrists before jumping. The embassy representative declared this was likely to have happened, since he saw blood stains in the bedroom. Three hours later, the forensic doctor arrived, with his bag in the right hand. He took out his camera and got closer to the body. He looked through his lens from above and took a picture of the location of the fall. Then he lifts the cover from the body and flipped it. Maria landed on the ground on her face. Her skull was smashed, and her wrist bone was broken, it seems her hand hit the ground too at the first impact. Paramedics bring stretchers and pick her up. An earring shines on her right ear shines. They cover the body and take it to the car."

لا يزال الجميع ينتظر الطبيب الشرعي. في هذه الأثناء، يمر أحد الأشخاص معلّقاً: «الحمد لله أنها لم تسقط على سيّارة أحدهم»، ويضيف، «كانت عملت بلوي». تأخر الطبيب الشرعي، وكثرت تحليلات الموجودين عن ملابسات الوفاة. بعضهم برّأ صاحب المنزل، مستذكراً أخلاقه الحميدة التي يتعامل بها مع جيرانه، فيما ذهب البعض الآخر همساً إلى احتمال إساءة معاملة الخادمة، ما دفع بها إلى «الانتحار». وبين هذا وذاك، تحدّث البعض عن أنّ الخادمة قطعت شرايين يديها قبل أن تقفز. وقد رجّح هذا الكلام مندوب السفارة الفيليبينية الذي قال إنه رأى بقع دماء في غرفة النوم.

... وبعد ثلاث ساعات، حضر الطبيب الشرعي حاملاً حقيبته بيمناه. أخرج كاميرته واقترب من الجثة. نظر من خلال عدستها إلى الأعلى والتقط صورة لمكان السقوط. ثم رفع الغطاء عن الجثة وقلبها. ماريا سقطت على وجهها مباشرة. تهشّمت جمجمة رأسها، وكُسر معصمها الذي يبدو أنها تلقّت به الأرض. أحضر عاملا الإسعاف الحمّالة وحملاها. لمع قرطٌ ذهبي في أذنها اليمنى. غطّيا الجثة ووضعاها في السيارة.

The recent death marks the first in the New Year in Lebanon, which has a rate of more than one domestic worker death per week, says a 2008 Human Rights Watch report.

Currently there are over 200,000 female migrant domestic workers in Lebanon and the numbers are increasing on a daily basis, which presents the problem of regulating a problem that is widespread throughout Lebanon.

Victims of abuse, confinement and rape are often invisible because they suffer in places that remain hidden to the public’s eye such as in private homes or hotel rooms.

"The death toll last month is clear evidence that the government isn't doing enough to fix the difficult working conditions these women face," Senior Human Rights Researcher Nadim Houry said in a press release. "The government needs to explain why so many women who came to Lebanon to work end up leaving the country in coffins."

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement urging the Lebanese government to investigate the reason why eight migrant domestic workers died during October marking one of the deadliest months of the year.

Four of the deaths were cited as being suicides, three as work related incidences and another as a heart attack due to stress. In a report published in August, HRW said that domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate one per week.

Psychiatrist and Sociologist, Ahmad Ayache, offered these thoughts in an interview with Al-Akhbar as to why there continues to be a high rate of migrant domestic worker deaths, "ill-treatment that some maids endure in Lebanon pushes them to commit suicide." Ayache pointed out that he treats a lot of maids who suffer from depression caused by the fact that they are deprived of their freedom and they are treated badly. The psychotherapist also emphasized that the way they choose to put an end to their days defines the reasons why they did it. He attributed, for example, jumping off of high places to the desire to be free. This is why, the doctor sees that the seizure of domestic workers' freedom is the main reason which causes pressure on them, pushing them to kill themselves to escape.

ذكر الطبيب النفسي والباحث الاجتماعي أحمد عيّاش لـ«الأخبار»، أن «سوء المعاملة الذي تتعرّض له بعض الخادمات في لبنان يدفع بهن الى الانتحار». وأشار عياش الى أنه يعالج العديد من الخادمات اللواتي يعانين من اكتئاب سببه حجز حريتهن وسوء المعاملة. كذلك لفت المعالج النفسي الى أن الأسلوب الذي يختاره المُنتحر يُحدّد أسباب انتحاره. وقد أرجع، على سبيل المثال، اختيار رمي النفس من مكان مرتفع، على أنه رغبة في التحرّر والانعتاق من القيود التي تُكبّل المُنتحر. من هذا المنطلق، رأى الطبيب المذكور أن حجز حريّة عاملات المنازل هو السبب الرئيسي الذي يولّد الضغوط لدى هؤلاء الفتيات، ويدفع بالعديد منهن الى اختيار الانتحار وسيلة الى الهرب.

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