November 15th, 2011
08:12 AM ET

Dying to escape

Abuse of Lebanese domestic workers is so common some nations are banning citizens from taking jobs there. And many are so desperate to escape enslavement and abusive conditions, that they take their own lives. Arwa Damon reports.

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. ytut


    November 15, 2011 at 11:41 am | Reply
  2. Lebanese Citizen

    Sad, but is 100% true.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:42 am | Reply
  3. Roula Boustani

    Hi Roula,

    please watch this, i just saw it on CNN, it's horrifying

    November 15, 2011 at 11:57 am | Reply
  4. Ben

    Look, who is talking about the human rights abuse? Americans who enslaved million African refugees. They still follow the modern slavery in 21st century. I feel sorry for those maids seen on this video but that's the price they are paying to travel to an unknown place for work. Discrimination and abuse happens to the domestic helpers on a daily basis in Europe or America but no one cares. Let's blame the "Capitalism" for mistreatment of low income employees.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • Jack Assman

      Ben you are a troubled sick man, if you think the maids deserve it. The worst offenders are the barbaric Saudis, where obuse takes a different meaning, it's torture. According to BBC last month's online edition a Sri Lankan maid's body was full of nails that were stapled to her whole body. This is really apalling that we fail to report this and make the employers held responsible, just because they are Saudis.

      November 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Reply
    • Maryam

      Where are you from Ben because your ip addy doesnt spell US. So tired of the misleads about American history. Such things are a crime in US. Slaves were brought to America by European colonists coming to a new land.If you dont acknowledge the reality of what is going on, then you pretend its not happening and nothing is repaired. When America first became a country people from all over the world came there, some of them bringing with them their slaves.America when it became a country, they abolished slavery under President Lincoln. Every country has to go through a process to acknowledge their wrong doings from some of their people and gather many voices to stop those committing these crimes.Nikto is correct.Mike, I applaud your caring voice, perhaps you and others can raise your voice against it to the proper authorities until its eliminated.Ali, while that may be true of your family, the statistics show there is a rise in complaints and thats why countries are forbidding their people to work there.And Ali, slavery was brought to America in its infancy before it was even a nation by those coming to America. That was a long time ago and people fought against slavery and for the rights of others throughout US history. It shouldnt still exist in a more modern world, especially amongst the rich,because they can afford to do much better for those who work for them. From Lebanons own news, this is just one article... Perhaps your voice Ali can make a difference. Just because you treat someone well, doesnt mean all people recognize others as equals like they should, ESPECIALLY in Islamic countries that portrays Islam itself itself to be "fair" and "democratic" to all people. For most Muslims are this way, but they need to raise their voices against those who are not. Thats why democracy is so important to represent all voices. We wish the best for the good Lebanese people to resolve this issue.

      November 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Reply
      • Now that was stupid

        Maryam, Your teacher must be very proud. Just be warned, in second grade, spelling counts. First of all, 99.9% of all slaves brought to this country were not by "European colonists." In fact, the early Dutch Settlers were known for their relatively "fair" treatment of slaves by comparison to the later policies of Southerners. By the way, Southerners are American. Secondly, and I'm sure your peeps on the playground could back me up here, Abraham Lincoln was not our first President. Therefore, America did not abolish slavery upon becoming a country. It took a long and bloody war following a long and bloody history of Americans importing slaves. Slavery did not end in America's infancy as you say. It ended in the second half of the 19th century.

        November 20, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • moronic

      This article is about lebanon, no where else. Keep to the subject and take your biased opinion of the US (which I have no doubt your cheetoes eating azz lives) to the appropriate hate article...

      November 16, 2011 at 11:53 am | Reply
      • Nowthatwasstupid

        you're retarded...

        November 20, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • ThePacific

      either you have been brainwashed or brain dead. I suggest you get some education. people like you make human look damn stupid.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Reply
    • jurbinsky

      If I have to blame anybody of "slavery in america", it is the arabs who raided the african villages, took men, women and children and sold them to the british slave traders. Those traders sold those slaves to american farmers who are mostly in the South.

      November 18, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
      • jurbinsky

        who were mostly..

        November 18, 2011 at 11:02 am |
      • Dida

        That is only history and this generation is free from such thing. we don't need to look back what was done, rather we struggle to build one world,one people irrespective of color, religion, culture.....

        November 18, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • John

      I'll leave the insults (most of them true) to others but point out a few key facts.

      * In the US its almost impossible to get a domestic help visa unless its family or you are a diplomat. 99% of the cleaners are recent immigrants. Immigrants can and do switch jobs if their employers are not good. More than that in good economic times they switch jobs for higher salaries. In my experience, of these immigrants 20% are US citizens, 70% are legal immigrants on visa's applying for citizenship and 10% are in some form illegal (working on a non-work visa). I primarily hire from Asia so I have not come accros anyone completely illegal like from Mexico. In my experience its a win-win situation. You work triple hard for low wages during early citizenship and then move up the ladder as you become an American citizen. I've never ever had a cleaner want to return to their home country – whether war torn or peaceful. So in the US I do not think abuse of cleaners from Asia is a problem.

      In Europe, I find the situation is similar with another layer of migrants from South and Eastern Europe that will eventually return. In this market cleaners have the protection of the law and job switch constantly.

      In other countries there are situations where cleaners are tied to a particular employer, they do not have full legal rights and are often abused. Now even hear the difference is great. In UAE abuse is long hours, debt repayment, isolation and no vacation. But you arent beat up or not paid. This story in Lebanon takes abuse to a whole new level.

      Please learn how to differentiate different countries. Capitalism might have many bad aspects – but global mobility for poor people to increase wages in rich area'sl is not one of them. In fact its the leading reason global poverty and hunger has decreased over the last 50 years.

      November 22, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply
    • gibriel

      Its true america may have many vices,but give them credit for having and implementing laws that prevents this kind of stupid inhumane and shameful acts. Some of these countries in the middle east needs to realize this is the 21st century and hold employers responsible for their actions.

      November 25, 2011 at 5:45 am | Reply
  5. ali

    thanks Ben for the truth about slavery in the USA and every where else . while i agree to some degree about the abuse i disagree about calling it slavery . We have a lovely lady that helps my family in Lebanon and we treat her as family . so mr. lebanese citizen and your 100% statistics you are wrong . We have compassion and respect while others dont.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Reply
    • rs1201

      Yeah, I don't think so. Arabs in general don't treat their domestics decently or even humanely. I'm an American Jew born in Egypt and I distinctly remember all the beatings that maids got at the hands of their "mistresses"....big fat arab women wrapped up in black sheets beating down on much smaller women. Egyptian maids loved working for my family because of the decent treatment they got and the fact that they were treated as members of our family. When my family finally left Egypt, our maids were in tears and kept asking us who would take care of them and protect them. My family gave each one of them a hefty amount of money to give them time to get a good job. Unfortunately, arabs are pitiless when it comes to their housekeepers and domestics. Really sad statement about their mentality.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Reply
      • Diana

        Jewish people aren't exempt from abuse of maids...I distinctly remember CNN segment about Ethiopian slaves facing abuse at the hands of not only their employers, but by doctors and legislators trying to create some type of eugenics movement against east african men and women.

        November 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
      • OrganDonor

        A Jew trying to criticize all Arabs with a blanket statement. What country has violated the most UN laws? Israel. What group of people are infamously known for stealing organs from men, women, and children corpses? Jews. What group of people have applied the most tactics that Hitler used? Jews. What group of people are known extremely well known for being cheap and screwing over innocent people financially? Jews. This list is infinite so I won't go on. Oh and how are you an American Jew yet born in Egypt? That pretty much sums up how intelligent you are.

        November 16, 2011 at 11:02 am |
      • Sunflower

        Organdonor your read WAY to many cheap tabloids..... You just embarrassed yourself....

        November 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
      • Now that was stupid

        "I distinctly remember all the beatings that maids got at the hands of their "mistresses"....big fat arab women wrapped up in black sheets beating down on much smaller women. " That's hot...

        November 20, 2011 at 9:28 am |
      • Bluegreen

        Shut your trap. Some arabs are trash just like some israelis are and some others from all nationalities are. Not all and not the majority. You sound narrow minded and salty. Shut your ass up with your jeneralisation. You're an embarrassment.

        December 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  6. Nikto

    Accurate report – such abuse is common not only in Lebanon but many "developing" countries employing domestic helpers, particularly in the Middle East. Simmilar stories in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian Gulf abound. Developing countries came a long way towards minimizing the ability of employers to exert such an awful mistreatment. Ben: at the time slavery exsisted in the States, the Middle East was far worse; Lebanese farmers were as well practical slaves to landlords. Slavery was only officialy banned in Saudi couple of decades ago; it is still practiced today in Arab countries like Mauritania and Morroco (to a lesser extent).

    November 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  7. Joe Fattal

    Domestic help is known in the Middle-East. It represent the well-off part of the population that can afford to have one, because they do not pay the helper but the company that arranged the employment. The domestic helper gets 3 meals a day or less and a place to sleep. Yes domestic laws are strickly practice but than you have some families that would mistreate their help if the coffee was served warm, but not enough to lose the helper since it would cost more money to hire another one.

    November 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  8. Mike

    As a Lebanese, I just want to burry my head in sadness and shame over this report. Thank you Arwa for exposing this horrible and widespread abuse.

    Shame on the useless Lebanese government for not doing anything meaningful to stop this outrage.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • AliM

      I would say shame on the abusers who treat their shoes better then these human beings. I overheard one man showing off that he deduced 100$ for 4 broken plates from the salary of his Srilankan maid (250$/month). Can you imagine her devastation?!

      November 16, 2011 at 3:55 am | Reply
  9. Richie

    It is shame for country as Lebanon to have it is image like this. I say no foreign worker to come to work in Lebanon. or better off how about we send these bad employers to some of the countries where these poor helpless people came from... on the other hand, the war has really affected the Lebanese and most of them if not ALL

    November 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  10. ajinla

    this is downright horrible, As a human being I am horrified by this and as a Lebanese I am a shamed of these people. The Lebanese Government must do more to punish these criminals that are abusing the help. One more thing I like to say, is that the agents that get paid lot of money to bring these workers over must be held accountable, and must be made to pay fines, and to make sure that establish a system of reporting that keeps them in touch with their employees.

    November 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  11. American Citizen

    Dear CNN:
    A judge in Manhattan just ordered poor, jobless Americans with no place to turn away from a public park and removed all remaining chattel from their lives and possession. Why are you burdening the United States with pleas from other nations when you fail to address that which exists right here in this nation? From what Anderson Cooper understands is a horrific undertaking of human trafficking and police brutality in Harrison County, MS to New England where multi-generational families are being forced from their real property and jobs by extremely wealthy Hollywood actors or dirty cops that aid them in their "vision" to turn the region into a 2nd playground – trampling on the traditions and history of this nation – how dare you – Mr. Taxless Turner et al dare to insult my American family by forcing me to view your issues with other nations as if I care at all when you trample my ancestor's graves right here in the US? How dare you attempt to guilt my children into believing they must sacrifice their future because CNN and other mass media use undue influence to cause all of us to spend billions of American tax dollars overseas to ingrates that do not care if our active duty military lives or dies or is prosecuted for discharging a firearm – even accidently. That is traitorous in fact – that is a fact of law.

    Stop the propaganda that favors only wealthy persons that are not the only citizens of the United States.

    A good news organization is one that learns to appreciate and respect their peers in their own nation, not fearing the reality of that which you fail to report objectively and accurately.

    Everyone knows.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • rs1201

      You're an idiot. Some of these protesters in Zuccotti Park were unemployed "by choice"....once I read that...I lost all compassion and pity. GET A JOB AND THEN MAYBE WE CAN TALK!!!!!

      November 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Reply
      • wILL

        So because "***SOME*** of the protestors are unemployed 'by choice'" (how many is "some"? sounds like more corporate-fascist-NWO propaganda), you have no sympathy for ***ANY*** of the protestors?

        The fact of the matter is (and I AM employed, you ****BAG), that besides these unemployed (MOST of whom are unemployed because THERE AREN'T ENOUGH POSITIONS AVAILABLE), there are MILLIONS OF US, who have taken pay cuts year after year while our employers roll in wealth while crying "poverty".


        November 16, 2011 at 10:49 am |
      • Rachel

        For every job opening there are four applicants. Not everyone can get a job since it has now become an employer's market not an employee's market.

        November 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
      • INeedToStopReadingStupidPosts

        Problems with your logic:

        1. If they had a job they wouldn't have time to protest
        2. Do you really believe everything you read? That must get very confusing!
        3. So you then take what you read as the overriding blanket truth in a very complex issue?

        Please use – and open – your brain!

        November 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Now that was stupid

      Dear American Citizen, You had me at chattel.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:34 am | Reply
  12. theLord

    Whats with Muslims and this joke called Islam, every where you turn they are hurting someone, or blowing someone up. I much preferred it when all I knew about them is what I read in National Geographics

    November 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • YC

      You do realize although Lebanon is an Arab country, it is 50-50 Muslim – Christian, even in the government. To diss Islam for this article is just plain ignorance

      November 16, 2011 at 7:23 am | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      Praise Jesus! The Lord has spoketh...

      November 20, 2011 at 9:36 am | Reply
  13. Mo13

    This is sick but it's common in the Arab world as Africans the only thing we share with this Arabs is Religion, Nothing More than that and any one who got a problem with my statement I could care less, Arabs are known treating people Like that and they wanna tell us how The West is Evil, well Guess what I live in the West and I practice Islam and no one is Harassing me it would be a different story in Saudi Arabia. I know a lot of women who come from those Arab countries mostly From Ethiopia Eritrea when they talk about how they were treated in those Arab countries they start Crying.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  14. Khalid

    Great report Arwa thank you !. I met here in america one of the people that actually had to work in similar conditions -She is from Ghana...She was much luckier because she was able to escape and fled to the UN headquarters in Amman where somebody was able to help her come to the US as a refugee...she is now going to med school here in Atlanta to soon be a Doctor...I wish luck to all of these abused ladies. So sad stories.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Reply
  15. Roadsniper

    Something that i would not on the job is abuse. I can count many of times that i have had people fired from there jobs for trying it on me or somebody else. I have quit jobs in the past to take a particular individuals job. Ther is 0 tolerance for me with such treatment. It happens a lot in union jobs ,i should know it happened to me in northern california, and in a month that person was fired . So watch out you abusive people your next .....

    November 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      I'm glad that your union protects your right to surf the web while on the job. Good for you for standing up for what's important.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:38 am | Reply
  16. Roadsniper

    Im with a company now that shows, and gives respect to all of its employees. Its a good feeling. But then remmembering all of those people seeking a better life in a free country, find out america is not everything its said to be, so my heart goes out to those people that have been lied to, those are the ones that deserve respect!!!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Reply
  17. YChahine

    It doesn't matter in which country this is, there is no excuse for such a thing.
    I am Lebanese and i am ashamed to see such a thing on CNN, especially that we are know for our intellectualism in the region.
    Apologies to all the Domestic workers. please know that your are not slaves and must never be.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:36 am | Reply
  18. Lost

    People who are cruel in this sense, need to manage their own homes and own lives. If you can't treat others who care for your home and family with dignity and respect, then do your own dirty work!

    November 16, 2011 at 12:39 am | Reply
  19. truth

    Anyone else wonder why lebanon another 3rd world country wilh only 4 million people needs these many maids?
    They don't even have oil like their neighbours.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:21 am | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      And the name of their country sounds like lunch meat.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:41 am | Reply
  20. Mark

    It happens in middle east. I read somewhere in the news paper 2 days ago a kuwaiti nationality kicked & punched his Ethipion maid and when the cops arrived she was declared dead . And this happened in the busy commerical street while expatriates were simply watching as this man was a kuwaiti.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:09 am | Reply
  21. AliM

    I was born and lived in Lebanon for 12 years. Everything in this report is true. THANK you Arwa for your professionalism (why go to the middle east when you can have a nice boring life in the US?). I think the middle east feels like a lawless country... a jungle... Where if you lack "connections" and "contacts" someone can abuse you, steal your kidney, your car, your house, your freedom, your life or dignity. The law is only applied on the weak citizens. If you have connections, you can get away with murder and rape.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:36 am | Reply
  22. marwan nasr

    There is no question that some employers mistreat domestic staff, in Lebanon and elsewhere. But I would like to add that most of the workers that walk out on their employers do so out of economic reasons. They simply get twice the pay from other employers (domestic or commercial) who have not had to pre-pay their initial displacement cost (2 to 3,000 USD for a 2-year contract, paid up-front by the initial employer to cover the employment bureau’s charges, taxes in both countries, ticket, work and residence permits.)
    Tens of thousands of freelance foreign workers are on the streets of Beirut, working (illegally) here and there, earning double salaries, living in their own rented quarters, staying on for years beyond their initial visas. And if ever they are haphazardly found out by the police, they will claim that their initial employer abused them!
    Of course, that may be true, in many cases. No question! But to take it for granted is not realistic.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:08 am | Reply
  23. marwan nasr

    The report should have at least mentioned these facts. Instead, it (unintentionally, I’m sure) ended up portraying the picture of the foreign worker arriving at Beirut airport, his/her passport handed over to his employer, and marching off to a life of detention, slavery and daily torture!
    I believe the Lebanese Labor Law should be revised to remove the requirement that an eventual employer should pre-pay the costs of displacement of the foreign worker. The latter should bear his/her own costs, and apply and pay for his/her own visa and work permit, and then work anywhere of his/her liking, for as long as he/she desires, and move on to other jobs at will.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:21 am | Reply
  24. marwan nasr

    This fact should have been mentioned. Instead, the report (unintentionally, I’m sure) ended up portraying the picture of the foreign worker arriving at Beirut airport, his/her passport handed over to his employer, and marching off to a life of detention, slavery and daily torture!
    I believe the Lebanese Labor Law should be revised to remove the requirement that an eventual employer should pre-pay the costs of displacement of the foreign worker. The latter should bear his/her own costs, and apply and pay for his/her own visa and work permit, and then work anywhere of his/her liking, for as long as he/she desires, and move on to other jobs at will.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:27 am | Reply
  25. islamisvile

    The problem is islam. The problem with islam is islam. All moslems should leave islam to rot on the stinking heap of humanity's worst memories along with nazism. Wherever we find islam we find intolerance, hatred, violence, terrorism, murder, misery and death. islam is vile.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:20 am | Reply
    • YC

      You do realize although Lebanon is an Arab country, it is 50-50 Muslim – Christian, even in the government. To diss Islam for this article is just plain ignorance

      November 16, 2011 at 7:24 am | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      Congratulations. You win the award for using the word 'Islam' more than any other single person here!

      November 20, 2011 at 9:44 am | Reply
  26. islamisvile

    Turkey needs to end it illegal occupation of Cyprus.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:21 am | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      How relevant!

      November 20, 2011 at 9:45 am | Reply
  27. LD

    As much as this report is true we cannot generalize. Not all Lebanese people treat their maids badly. Not all Arabs nor all Muslims are abusers. For once people get out of your self set limits and look at the human side. it doesn't matter where you are from and what your religion is, such abusers exists EVERYWHERE.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:38 am | Reply
  28. Alex Winter

    Wow Muslims abusing women. Shocking.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      Your last name is a season.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • pina colada

      You are wrong.Arab Christians are the same.It is the culture.Not the religion.Eve brought down the garden of Eden.Short memory hey.

      April 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  29. Dida

    we need our sisters!!! we are in the era where human beings are living with wildlife without any harm! I understood from what was happened upon our beloved sister that there is somewhere in the world where primitive people are! we need our sisters! Better to die b/c of luck of bread than being attacked by wildlife!

    November 17, 2011 at 11:24 am | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      You do have to be very careful about wild bread. It's vicious.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:49 am | Reply
  30. Dida

    we need our sisters!!! we are in the era where human beings are living with wildlife without any harm! I understood from what was happened upon our beloved sister that there is somewhere in the world where primitive people are! we need our sisters! Better to die b/c of luck of bread than being attacked by wildlife!

    November 17, 2011 at 11:26 am | Reply
    • Now that was stupid

      Second time is a charm.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:49 am | Reply
      • Truth Wide Open

        You're the joker, aren't you? trying to cause chaos.. and eventually failing. but u're funny. u made reading all these posts enjoyable.

        October 16, 2012 at 4:17 am |
    • pina colada

      Agree my friend.Better to die on your feet,than live on your knees.

      April 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  31. Melinda

    my boss is a good guy ,but sometimes he gives the wrong advice ,afterall he is good to us staffs. He always say that we should do business honestly and we should not use bad materails to make machinery ,I apreciate this
    86-0371-55910289 Miss Gao

    December 24, 2011 at 3:37 am | Reply
  32. Melinda

    tomorrow is christmas day Iam so happy cause tomorow I neednt work
    86-0371-55910289 Miss Gao

    December 24, 2011 at 4:13 am | Reply
  33. bebbeb

    bahla kayo sa bhay nio wla aq jan pkialam...hahaha

    March 10, 2012 at 4:01 am | Reply
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    April 9, 2012 at 3:18 am | Reply
  35. pina colada

    Anything is possible with these people -the Lebanese.No respect for women generally-the men.Muslim or Christian.It is across the Arab world.

    April 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  36. pina colada

    Let them further their bad reputation-they deserve it.

    April 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  37. madam reese

    i tell you what if somebody thought moi nicole fullard reeseis a slave they are mistaken and in big trouble!!QUEEN VICTORIA

    June 3, 2012 at 3:19 am | Reply
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