Tür 07 – Interview Farah Salka – englisch

Lebanon does not follow Sharia law but still there is no law against marital rape or violence which in effect means that while people talk about work law changes or the possibility for women to be freer in society, they are still not save at their own home. Will Lebanon ever be ready to pass such laws?

Yes, Lebanon does not follow Sharia law and we are not supposed to assume it does. And it is not just countries where Sharia law is followed, which are very few anyway, where the situation of women is completely down the line.

Take Lebanon as an example. Lebanon is a country which boasts „secularism“, „progressiveness“, a great human rights record, freedom of speech, good democratic governance and fair gender equality practices on the outside but one ought only take a quick look at the inside to realize how empty those labels are and how far away, land to sky distance, Lebanon is from any of those issues.

Women’s situation in Lebanon is really messed up whether we talk about the right to nationality, domestic violence, sexual harassment, women in power, women at the workplace, domestic workers, refugee women, you name it. Things are equally bad on almost every single issue of those. Lebanon is a failed state, a corrupt place, a sectarian country still ruled by warlords, mostly old men, who are the same people who used to fight between 1975 and 1990 during the civil war. They are the same people who are ‚ruling‘ and ‚governing‘ now and are filthy rich and corrupt. They are thieves and criminals. Until the day comes soon when this whole system falls, it is hard to dream of any substantial change that is noteworthy or that will actually affect the lives of people and more so women and marginalized communities in particular in any tangible way. There has never ever been any feminist women in power, ever. How can we expect that there will be any feminist laws in place? It’s just not gonna happen. So it is not about Lebanon not being ready. It is just that we have so many obstacles to face and struggle with first before we start putting the right policies in place. The people of Lebanon are ready. The women of Lebanon are ready. They are already dyeing day in day out. It is not possible that we are not ready yet. Of course we are ready. Those in power by force are not ready or close to interested in saving lives of women, of course. Why would they? They can do all they want and they think no one will ever hold them accountable to their failures. Look at the garbage crisis Lebanon is in today. It is insane how far this system has gone. But it is bound to fall sooner or later.

You work for the Anti-Racism Movement (ARM). How did you and the other Lebanese activists become involved in Anti-Racism work?

We became involved with anti-racism work in 2010 when we did our first video highlighting racism at beaches in Lebanon. I will put you some links here.

Then we started working very closely with migrant community leaders and supporting them in different cases they work on, demonstrations, and different solidarity efforts. Now our work concentrates on advocating against the sponsorship system, advocating for inclusion of domestic workers in Lebanese labour law and highlighting, document and fighting racism in all its forms. And then ARM was officially established.

Why did Beirut need a Migrant Community Center (MCC)?

The goal of MCC Beirut (established by ARM in 2011) is to improve the quality of life of migrant workers in Beirut (with a special focus on MDWs) and, increasingly, their capacity to self-advocate. MCC is a free and safe space tailored to and evolving according to their needs, where they can meet, learn skills, work together and access information and support. Its operations are run by a general coordinator and migrant community leaders, in collaboration with members of ARM.

Providing this space in Beirut has proved effective in strengthening and engaging migrant communities, improving skill-sets, linking isolated individuals to these communities, assessing and addressing common problems, and in empowering through capacity-building activities. In fact, since the establishment of a membership system one year ago, MCC Beirut has registered over 150 MCC members (in addition to 100 non-member users per week) representing 17 nationalities, and currently has 190 students enrolled in the 13 different weekly classes/sections, at least 10 MCC-organised activities, events, and meetings per week, an increasing number of MW-initiated events or activities, in addition to cultural exchange events, support group and awareness sessions, each occurring at least once per month[1].

MCC also plays a facilitating role in the network of NGOs and CSOs in the field: it serves as a hub for MDWs’ activities, an incubator for initiatives, a barometer of current migrant communities’ opinions & priorities, a place to test new ideas, a space where vast amounts of information can be quickly disseminated to a large number of MDWs, and an easily accessible place that is well-known and trusted among migrant communities. MCC also serves as a gateway for case referrals to other CSOs. ARM and MCC occasionally provide direct support for MDWs seeking support through the MCC services where this is possible, but act mainly as a bridge organization referring cases of human rights violations to our partners in the field.

Currently, we are working on trying to set up two new MCCs North and South of Beirut, modelled on MCC Beirut, as a first step in MCC’s expansion.
MCC Jounieh and MCC Saida will offer similar services and facilities as MCC Beirut, with an increased focus on empowerment and capacity building for self-advocacy in all three MCCs.

Once each new MCC is established, and an MDW membership base is started, the new MCC will begin offering free (or extremely low-cost) services to MCC members and users.

These services will include:

  • A free educational program with a focus on communication skills (languages and ICT), but also including others skills and activities (arts, music, sports), taught by volunteer teachers;
  • A capacity-building program comprised of several different classes with a focus on self-advocacy, such as project planning, producing campaign materials, fundraising, community mobilisation and public speaking;
  • Periodic information, awareness and services-provision sessions, which has already been done in MCC Beirut, but to a much lesser degree than planned in this project. These sessions will include: information sessions about MDW issues and their rights (given by various experts in the field), support group sessions, and health awareness and service-provision. Examples of such sessions which have already taken place in MCC Beirut are: information sessions with NGO representatives and lawyers, dental health awareness and services provision sessions, “The A Project” sessions on sexual health and rights, and support groups.
  • We will also focus our efforts on supporting empowered MDWs to lead self-advocacy initiatives in the three regions.

Tell us about the current political situation in Lebanon. Nearly one fifth of Lebanon’s population consists of Syrian refugees, more than one and a half million came across the border. How is the situation in the country?

In short, the situation is really bad. Lebanon is closest to a failed state than anything else really.

Everything doesn’t work. Everything is badly governed. There is no president. There is an illegally extending parliament of corrupt warlords who do no management or work whatsoever and can not be held accountable. Garbage. Water. Electricity. Internet. Jobs. Refugee Situation. Women’s issues. Migrant workers. Human rights. Everything. We are a country of 4,500,000 and we have close to 1.5 to 2 million refugees here, which is INSANE and those refugees are anyway treated in the worst conditions of all, living below the poverty line, in dire situations. But if other governments (especially those directly responsible to the misery of Syria and Syrians today) took in more than 100 refugees here and 1000 there, took in proper percentages (and with less life risking procedures) and stood up to their responsibility towards those human lives, we wouldn’t be here today.
Europeans should either stop the war, their involvement in war, their support of the criminal Bashar where applicable, and it is severely applicable in many places, or take in all those refugees whom they have made refugees alongside others through their support for this tragedy. And tragedy is an understatement when it comes to what has happened, and is still happening, to Syria today.

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