Outrage after suicide of Ethiopian maid in Lebanon

AFP , Thursday 15 Mar 2012

Ethiopian domestic worker's suicide sparks outrage among rights activists a week after video footage shows owner allegedly abusing and torturing the 34-year-old woman

Rights activists in Lebanon expressed outrage on Thursday after an Ethiopian house maid committed suicide in hospital a week after video footage was aired of her being allegedly abused by a man.

Alem Desisa, 34, hanged herself with a bed sheet on Wednesday at a psychiatric hospital east of Beirut, where she had been taken by police after the beating three weeks ago that was aired on Lebanese television.

The video footage, which showed a man dragging Desisa by the hair and kicking her outside her country's consulate, sparked national outrage.

The man, according to news reports, owned the employment agency that recruited her.

A statement posted on Facebook by Anti-Racism Movement, a grassroots group, said her suicide amounted to "murder".

"While her death is being called a 'suicide' in the press, the conditions that led to it mark it as homicide," the statement said.

Betty Barakat, of the non-profit organisation Caritas, told AFP she was shocked to hear of Desisa's suicide.

"She was happy and doing well when I last visited her on Monday," she said.

There are an estimated 200,000 migrant workers in Lebanon, primarily from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Nepal.

Many have their passports confiscated by their employers upon arrival in Lebanon and are locked up insides homes.

Human Rights Watch said in a report issued in 2010 that on average, about four a month commit suicide.

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