There is no love lost when it comes to me and politicians and diplomats in Lebanon. All of our warlord-feudal-chieftain-turned-corrupt-oligarchs aren’t worth much when it comes to self-respect, respect to Lebanon and above all, respect to other human beings. Their motorcades drive you off the street when they’re not closing it, their thugs intimidate you, sexually harass girls and are basically just a well-paid private gang of thugs (that’s not counting the crimes they commit in politics, like extending parliament’s term and gutting vital legislation for personal gains). There’s only a handful of diplomats and politicians in Lebanon that you could daresay you “respect” (and it’s definitely not the ones that sue innocent taxpayers to force that “respect”).
That’s not the case though when it comes to foreign diplomats serving their countries in Lebanon. Her Majesty’s Ambassador Tom Fletcher, his predecessor Francis Guy and their current EU counterpart, Angelina Eichhorst, are my absolute favorites. At a time when our own diplomats and officials are busy throwing lawsuits and intimidation at us, shutting down our websites, dragging us to police stations and courtrooms, these diplomats lend us a listening ear, they read what we write and they provide moral support for our struggles. Just look at one of his most recent tweets last week, it’s infectious.
This has been a tough decade so far. But I still bet that Lebanon will be one of the 21st century's success stories. #Leb2100
— Tom Fletcher (@HMATomFletcher) October 10, 2014
But, apart from the respect he shows the Lebanese people, Tom Fletcher is an all-around amazing man who I am very happy to have met. He’s an exemplary diplomat and civil servant and activist, who’s sometimes even more passionate than many Lebanese when it comes to human rights and freedoms issues in Lebanon. Once, he was invited to a formal dinner, and noticed that domestic workers had been put on a table to the side, segregated from the other “more honorable” guests in the organizers’ backwards opinion. Tom Fletcher sat down on the domestic workers’ table, setting an example that resonated profoundly in Lebanon.
He took his stance on this very troubling issue one step further today, and he filled in the shoes of Kalkedan, an Ethiopoan domestic worker in Lebanon. He tweeted photos of his day on the job, and shed light on the issue in Lebanon, where one domestic worker is killed or commits suicide every single week.
Apart from the slave-like treatment of their employers, such as confiscating passports, locking them indoors indefinitely, absurdly long working hours, no vacation, verbal and physical abuse, the government’s track record is just as abysmal when it comes to treatment of domestic workers. They’re arbitrarily arrested for extended periods of time with no charge, suffer torture and are treated in sub-human standards from the minute they land in Lebanon (which many governments around the world ban their citizens from coming to to work as domestic workers because of the severely horrifying track record of abuse.)
So, I’d like to take this chance to thank his excellency, and tell him that many activists and people who care in Lebanon, look up to him and deeply appreciate his efforts when it comes to human rights, specifically women’s rights in Lebanon. We’re lucky to have you serving in Lebanon (which I know for a fact HMA specifically requested because of his love of Lebanon and the Lebanese) your excellency.
Here’s to hoping a local official does 1% of what a foreign dignitary has done so selflessly and passionately, and to domestic worker conditions drastically improving in Lebanon ASAP.