By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Caption Ethiopian women flocking to the Middle East in search of jobs.
Alem Dechasa, an Ethiopian domestic in Beirut was yesterday’s horrific story of abuses of the collective – domestic workers – by Middle East societies. A Master’s Degree thesis by Nami Belihu Ketema in 2014 at the University of Oregon recalled the following in its introduction about Alem Dechassa, whose abuser and violator of her human dignity Lebanon has hardly cared to seize and apply to him and his accomplices the laws in their book:
“On February 24, 2012, outside the Ethiopian Consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, an anonymous bystander filmed a labor recruiter physically abusing Alem Dechasa-Desisa, an Ethiopian migrant domestic worker. This same video found its way to the global audience when the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) got hold of the footage, and, on March 8, 2012, aired it. The video shows horrific scenes, where, despite Alem’s protest, the labor recruiter and his associate dragging her into a car while beating her severely at the same time.
Later, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the LBCI “identified the man beating Alem as Ali Mahfouz, the brother of the head of the recruiting agency that brought her to Lebanon” (HRW, 2012). According to the interview Mahfouz gave to the broadcasting agency, his brother’s agency has been trying to return Alem to her home country as a result of alleged mental health problems. The same report records that, after the incident, police arrived at the scene and took Alem to a detention center “without arresting any of her tormentors.” Alem was transferred to Deir al-Saleeb Psychiatric Hospital for medical care where she committed suicide early in the morning on March 14 (HRW, 2012).
Today, many young Ethiopian women like Alem leave their country to go to the Gulf region with a hope of bettering their lives through jobs that are usually limited to domestic labor work. While some find a reasonable amount of success, most migrant workers experience serious human rights abuses that are hardly accounted for. Yet, even in the midst of all this mayhem, young Ethiopian women continue flocking to this region. According to figures from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (2012), around 200,000 Ethiopian women migrated to the Middle East seeking employment in the domestic work industry using legal routes. The number of women migrating using illegal routes is estimated to be double that figure. Top destination countries in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, and more recently Sudan, which is usually used as transit country (ILO, 2012). While some women are treated well, a significant number of Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East face undue hardships and abuse in the form of low or withheld wages, poor working and living conditions, virtual absence of social protection, denial of freedom of association and workers’ rights, discrimination, xenophobia and social exclusion. Working conditions agreed to in contracts—if contracts exist at all—are often not kept, and working time as agreed to are not respected. Moreover, there are increasing reports of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and in some instances this has led to –as is the case of Alem Dechasa-Desisa – death. Despite the hardships recounted by returnees, many women still choose to migrate, driven by poverty and lack of employment opportunities at home.”
After Alem Dechasa, problems of maids have intensified
Since then, many have lost their eyes or limbs or lives to the animalism money has so far covered individual families and overall the crimes of Gulf societies. Yet, today another day of crime; and thus it is the turn of Indians to rage at the cruelty that has hit one of them, as we have done for years.
One of them, a 58-year old Indian maid, working in the house of a Saudi family has got her right hand chopped off by the ‘Lady of the House’, who has hired her.
The reason for that was the the Indian women got tired of being abused; she decided to run away; unfortunately she was caught and her ‘mistress’ applying the Saudi justice with a sword – no need to refer to courts of law or any form of discussion within the family before the sharp Saudi sword fell on the middle-aged women, premeditatively to disable her from working in the future.
This, of course, caps the height of vengefulness, whose origin is the society’s arrogance coming from oil wealth, the influence it has begotten them and, thus, sign of the prevalent ignorance about human rights of Saudi society as well as the other Gulf states!
The silver lining for the Indian woman, at least, is that in India they have a government. The Indian government is Indian and thus it stood on the side of its citizen.
India instantly lodged its complaints at the highest level possible. In addition, the BBC reported Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj wrote on Twitter: “This is unacceptable. We have taken this up with Saudi authorities. Our embassy is in touch with the victim… Chopping of [arm] of Indian lady – we are very much disturbed over the brutal manner in which Indian lady has been treated in Saudi Arabia.”
Her son S Kumar told the BBC, “Ever since she went to work with this family in July, things were not alright. My mother was not even allowed to speak to us over the phone, she was not given proper food and was forced to work long hours… ”
“When she tried to escape the harassment and torture, her right arm was chopped off by the woman employer. Now my sister can’t even sit and do simple things on her own, as her spinal cord has also been injured,” her sister S Vijayakumari added.
As can be seen here, her government, her son and her sister, most of all, the whole of India are standing by the Indian maid.
In the case of Alem Dechassa, she had country but no government to stand by her side. The Ethiopian Consulate chased her away like a dog in a temple. Alem was seized in the street by law enforcement people, considering her insane woman.
Alas! pushed by her country’s representatives at the moment she needed them, who passed her to the beasts, she had only one recourse. In the minds of her mind, saying her prayer, telling her daughter to be brave and them wishing her family well, she turned to her only comforter: the hospital bedsheet and hanged herself.
She no more had any energy left to fight off the shame and humiliation she has been subjected to in the street and then by the representatives of the TPLF – the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front – which has been ruling Ethiopia for the past 25 years – President Obama and his National Security team love to call the democratically elected regime.
As for me, I have not still received the latest definition of democracy, although I understand its retreat if pacing faster now.
Even after the Lebanese interior ministry announced apprehending Alem’s assailant and notification was given to the TPLF regime, they somewhat showed they were not interested in the case in more than two ways. What mattered most is that the ethnic regime had no word to the Lebanese government to show interest in support of her Lebanese defense team the Beirut government would set up; it waited for some time and surely Lebanon saw no reason in throwing the book at ‘non-guilty’ citizen.
ISIL slains Ethiopians, time for the TPLF to throw violence party
Alem’s was not the last of the evils that has happened to Ethiopians around world. When 30 Ethiopians were slain in Libya by the ISIS, in Ethiopia citizens were angry for two reasons. The regime denied they were Ethiopians! When it was proved they were Ethiopians, instead of consoling a sad and angry nation, the regime tried to explain the whole thing, especially the mourning rally as a scheme by the opposition and all those protesting against ISIS.Did the TPLF commando think he saw an ISIL fighter? Regime’s hired commando attacking a young man in Ramboesque manner in defense of its employer (Foto Negere Ethiopia).[/caption]
Nothing shows the picture than this irresponsible action of the state and its security forces. They proved stronger to Ethiopian youth, not ISIL. Therefore, the Agazi commandos the TPLF keeps in the capital began grieving citizens, they happily broke hands and legs, even killed a few after some shots.
Sadly, many citizens, mostly lactating mothers taken prisoners at the time and wives happen to be still in prison.
The Ethiopian regime horror story of violence or neglect of citizens does not stop with Alem Dechasa or those slain by ISIS.
The man in the Ethiopian prime minister’s office disgraced himself in December 2014, demeaning citizens. One notable place he did this was in Werabe, in Gurage part of the nation. He went there to tell Gurage families to stop their children in Addis Abeba from joining the opposition parties.
He suddenly changed gear and started talking about his experience during his visit in Saudi Arabia. He told them that he asked the embassy to arrange him a meeting to speak to Ethiopian maids. He saw them dressed in all sorts of ways and some of them were not interested in listening to him in the first place. I don’t blame them. The guy is full of lies and pretensions and that there was nothing to gain listening to him.
His ego could not accept the rejection; he began attacking them as dogs and with all sorts of animal names, referring that they ‘behaved like mad dogs’.
Luckily, one of the maids who heard this, by the name Hermela – probably better educated than him – wrote the following poem within hours to remind him rather to know himself first. The poem is hereunder.
“አትበሉን እብድ ውሻ፤ ከሃገር ርቀን እኛ ብንሰደድ
እኛ ለለፋነው እኛ ለደክምነው አላቹሁን ገረድ?
ሎቶሪ ደርስዎት ሥልጣን ላይ ቢወጡ
የሥራ ድርሻዎን ምንም ሳይረዱ ሳያውቈት በቅጡ
ስለኛ ግርድና አፎን ለመክፈት አደባባይ ወጡ?
የሃገርን ገንዘብ ዘርፈን ስላልሸጥን?
የደሃዎችን ደም ስላላፈሰስን?
የምስኪንን ሕይወት ስላላጠፋን?
የስም መጠሪያችን እብድ ውሻ ነውን? አይ ጠቅላይ ሚኒስትር
ተላላኪ ዱዴ መሆኖን አውቀው፣
አፎን ከመክፈት የኛን ሥራ ንቀው
ምናለ ቢያገኙ እራስዎን ፈልገው?
ከሚጎርሱት ሥጋ አጉርሱን አላልንም
ከሚጠጡት ውስኪ አጠጡን አላልንም
እርስዎ በምን መሥፈርት እብድ ውሻ አረጉን? …
ፍትህ ተቸግረን ነጻነት ብናጣ፡
ተስፋ ስንቀን ለስደት ብንወጣ
እብድ ውሻና ገረድ የሚል ስም ታወጣ?”…
Listen to the rudeness of the person in the Ethiopian prime minister’s office, how he attacks Ethiopian maids in the Middle East, who provide foreign exchange to this ungrateful regime, his sense of disrespect for labor and gender, etc.
The audio hereunder appropriately undresses him to keep naked before the Ethiopian public:
There are many Ethiopian prisoners in many East and Southern Africa nations, charged with visa regulations violations. The latest horrendous situation was that of about 200 Ethiopians in Malawi prisons.
The Malawi government could not classify them as stateless persons. Some of them have passports. But they came to claim refugee status, which it was not prepared to grant; nor did it want to allow them to pass to South Africa, since it would spoil relations with that country. Malawi said they have no funds to provide for them.
The best it could for them is put them under lock and key in two rooms as prisoners, with porridge a day to each. The prisoners got ill, undernourished and contracting diseases. Malawi could not treat them, claiming that it did not have the funds.
The TPLF regime in Addis Abeba was contacted and it did not officially respond to the Malawi government. Instead, it is rumored, verbal communication is given that they should contact them and seek help to send them back home!
The following is what Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has done, to take care of the medical care needs of the Ethiopians that have been locked in two prisons:
Over 200 migrants, the majority of them from Ethiopia, are currently incarcerated in Malawi prisons because of their undocumented status. Most were on their way to South Africa, hoping to flee harsh poverty and make a better life there. The justice system for migrants in Malawi is unclear: most of these prisoners have finished serving their sentences and were supposed to have been released and repatriated already. The migrants are detained in harsh condition: there is extensive overcrowding, food is inadequate, and sanitary conditions are precarious.
MSF has titled this article as: Ethiopian Migrants: Trapped in Malawi Prisons
This is how the TPLF allowed our citizens to be treated, as explained by Umberto Pellecchia, anthropologist working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), in his article hereunder:
The worst is at night. The heat emanating from dozens upon dozens of bodies is so stifling it’s palpable. The men are squeezed together on the cement floor, with a space of less than half a square metre per person on average. Packed tightly like battery hens for fifteen hours a day, the inmates sit up in rows, their heads lolling on their knees, occasionally rolling onto a neighbour’s shoulder. This is the harsh reality of overcrowding in Maula prison, in the Malawi capital of Lilongwe. Built to accommodate 800 prisoners, Maula is bursting at the seams with 2,650 inmates. Amongst this desperate population, the most vulnerable are the nearly 300 undocumented migrants who were arrested as they travelled towards South Africa.
These men represent the reality of our mobile world, where people are on the move, seeking refuge from violence and inequality or escape from chronic poverty. Lacking any kind of resources, they left their countries of origin in the hope of building a decent life in South Africa. A dream denied at home, that dramatically ended up in Malawi’s prisons.
It is a bright June morning when I visit Maula prison to assess the living conditions of foreigners who have been deemed by the court as undocumented migrants. The sun shines a bleak light on the daily realities of migrants held together with common-law offenders, some of whom are serving long sentences for violent crimes. “We are 204 in this cell,” says Thomas, a Malawian inmate, pointing to the number written on a blackboard in the 60 square-metre cell. He introduces me to a group of young Ethiopians sitting outside in the sun. “It gives us Vitamin D,” jokes Abeba, a man in his thirties from Durame, Ethiopia. “We are not criminals! But now, in prison, we are not human anymore,” he says.
The number of foreign citizens, mostly Ethiopians, detained in Malawi for illegal entry has increased in the past few years, becoming a phenomenon of humanitarian concern. Most of them have been charged for three months, but the reality is that they have been locked away for more. The law requires they return to their homelands after their periods of detention, but bureaucratic delays impede any way forward. Moreover, they are supposed to cover their expenses for repatriation, a contradiction to their weak economic status.
A young boy leaning on a wall tells me, “My dream is to reach South Africa; this is what I have worked towards for years. I knew it would be difficult, but I never thought I’d end up here. I thought Africans were all brothers. But here… here it seems different.” He stares at me, as if questioning for the first time what he had always thought to be true.
Three young men are grading beans outside their cell. “You see? These are not good. They are uncooked and rotten,” says one of the men. “We eat them like that,” another inmate adds. Prisoners in Maula get food only once a day. They usually eat a plate of nsima – ground maize that fills the stomach but doesn’t give many nutrients. Beans are an occasional treat. Nutrition is so poor that last month MSF had to treat 18 inmates for moderate-to-severe malnutrition.
Malawi, Lilongwe, June 2015, Maula Prison. As of 20 July there were 193 Ethiopian migrants detained in Maula prison because of their illegal status. They were all on their way to South Africa is hope for a better future.
Ethiopians follow a long-standing pattern of migration towards South Africa, their beacon of light. “Where we live, there is not enough land for everyone, we are too many in my family,” says Abeba, counting with the fingers on both hands the number of brothers in his family. “If I go to South Africa, after two or three years I can afford to buy a house. If you work for twenty years in Ethiopia you can’t buy anything,” he says. Another young Ethiopian adds, “If you need a job there, you have to belong to a certain family that has land. My family doesn’t have any.” For many, leaving the country wasn’t a choice. It was their last hope for survival.
Emmanuel pulls out his torn wallet, opens it and shows me the transparent sleeve inside. Instead of pictures, it holds his talisman: a piece of paper with three phone numbers on it. “These are my friends in South Africa,” he says. In the courtyard of the prison, Abeba gazes at the other inmates playing football. I ask him if he wants to go back to his country. He turns his head towards me, with a serious smile too mature for his age. “We can’t go back,” he says. “If we go back to Ethiopia, what could we do there? We can’t work anymore. We have become too sick for any kind of work.”
Does Ethiopia have government that fulfils responsibilities of protecting citizens and ensuring the nation’s sovereignty? Not that I know of, especially after this and abandonment of our citizens in Libya, South Africa, Yemen, Malawi, etc. Not at all, especially if government sells the national territory, as the TPLF has given Ethiopian lands disputed over 110 years now to the Sudan. Ethiopian farmers in Gondar continue to resist this!
That is not an attribute of government!