As most of this blog’s readers know, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed into the Mediterranean just south of Beirut a few minutes after take-off early Monday morning. This tragedy has shed some light on a well-known, but less discussed Lebanese connection to Africa. Many of the Lebanese on this flight, most of them men, were on their way to various countries in Africa where they had jobs or businesses. Most of them are from the south. 16 hail from the town of Nabatiyeh alone. So this tragedy is compounded by the sad facts of emigration and the “estrangement” (الاغتراب/الغربة) from homeland and family imposed by harsh economic conditions and government neglect. Many Lebanese politicians and citizens have commented on this phenomenon since the flight crashed. But few have managed to throw the nets of empathy wide enough to include another group of passengers aboard flight 409 who have also had to endure emigration, estrangement, harsh economic conditions, and much more. Most of the 31 Ethiopians who were aboard this flight were female domestic workers heading back home after a long, long stay abroad. One can only hope that this shared tragedy will also bring forth a shared humanity.
“Why do you Lebanese never treat us good?” screamed one Ethiopian woman as security forces prevented her from entering the governmental hospital in Beirut today to identify a body. “We are human beings like you. God created us. Why don’t I have the right to come in and see my sister?” (from The Guardian)