LEBANON: Satirical video highlights racism toward African, Asian workers
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Where is your Sri Lankan from?
It’s a nasty old joke in Lebanon, one that gets even less funny every time a foreign maid or nanny is reportedly abused.
But activist Wissam Saliby turns this trope of casual racism on its head in a new satirical video he hopes will shine a light on the conditions of African and Asian domestic workers in Lebanon.
In Sri Lankiete Libnanieh (My Sri Lankan is Lebanese), the roles of madam and maid are switched as two spoiled housewives played by Asian women discuss the comparative laziness and stupidity of their Lebanese and Syrian maids, who are treated badly.
‘I was trying to invert [these stereotypes] so that people would become aware to their own unconscious racism,’ said Saliby, who tracks worker abuse on the blog Ethiopian Suicides. He shot the video on a cellphone as part of an interactive workshop run by the producers of Shankaboot, a popular online serial drama. The Shankaboot team ‘showed it in schools, and that was important to me,’ he added. ‘They liked it a lot and it got a really positive reaction.’
Many migrant workers in the Middle East are brought into the region by agencies that recruit from poor African and Asian countries, promising the women well-paying jobs and security. But once they arrive, their passports are sometimes taken away and they have little recourse to justice if their employers abuse them or withhold wages.
Even within the wider community, Africans and Asians are often discriminated against and even barred from entering certain establishments like beach clubs.
-- Meris Lutz in Beirut
Video: Sri Lankiete Libnanieh turns an old, racist joke into a poignant commentary on the plight of domestic workers in Lebanon. Credit: Wissam Saliby via YouTube