Dipendra Uprety, who moved to Canada in 2012 after spending 15 years in Lebanon, has launched a website www.thisislebanon.org and FB page (This Is Lebanon) to denounce abusive work conditions and living arrangements and to provide a platform for domestic workers in Lebanon and their families to speak out. ”My wife and I were involved in helping Nepali domestic workers when we lived in Lebanon, and when we had the opportunity to emigrate to Canada we vowed that we could continue the fight for their rights” Uprety told Sansarnews.
“We have not just moved on and forgotten all the abuse that we witnessed there,” he continued . “I, myself, was a victim of injustice under the kafala (sponsorship) system. In my volunteer work for the Nepalese Consulate, I saw terrible abuse cases of female domestic workers and saw how human traffickers brought illiterate women from Nepal to Lebanon where they were taken advantage of. The cases made me weep and I have never forgotten.”
The first story Uprety published ,in May 2017, was about a Lebanese Joe Semaan, who raped and stole from undocumented domestic workers, pretending to be a police man .The story got almost 20,000 views along with comments, including some by Semaan’s former victims.
“Go to any call centre on a Sunday ,show the workers Joe’s picture and you will very quickly meet one of his victims,” Uprety said. “Some of them met with a human rights lawyer, but found they could do nothing to stop him, because, being undocumented, they were too afraid to lodge an official complaint.That’s why we decided to run his story.
“Uprety further stated , ”the main reaction to the website is one of amazement that there might actually be justice for domestic workers in Lebanon. Joe’s arrest was temporary. But the pic of him in handcuffs was a little bit of sweet of justice for his many victims.” The aim of This Is Lebanon is first to name and shame .”There is a sense of impunity in Lebano , Uprety said . ”You can do whatever you want to your domestic worker and get away with it .Well, not anymore. We want those who abuse domestic workers to know that their abuses will not be hidden, that when she goes home , she now has a way of telling people what she suffered. Maybe if they know their workers can expose their dirty secrets, then abuse in Lebanon will be reduced as they care about their reputation.”
Sonam Moktan ,a Nepalese domestic worker, was freed after 10 years of slavery in (https://thisislebanon.org/unpaid-wages/boutros-bou-younes-sonam/)after we exposed her situation. Halima, a Filipino who was enslaved by a Lebanese politician and advocate for women’s rights for a decade, was also freed due to pressure from This Is Lebanon. (https://thisislebanon.org/general-abuse/halima-10-years-in-slavery-to-ibtissam-saade/). Nidzma Ammar, a Filipino, was released from 21 years of slavery (https://www.facebook.com/247760305701018/posts/364034117406969/ ).
Currently we are following the case of Lensa Tufa (https://eleanore-couture-free-lensa-now.com/) Lensa’s case has received global attention.
Not one single law protects domestic workers in Lebanon .This must be change and I believe it will. The injustices are no longer hidden and brave Lebanese are standing with us and saying ‘no more’.