Lebanon News

Domestic worker dies in hospital from stab wound

Ethiopian women take pictures with their phones as they leave a church in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A Nepalese domestic worker died in hospital Tuesday evening after suffering a stab wound to the stomach that was apparently self-inflicted, security sources told The Daily Star.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that 28-year-old Sina Bell died shortly after admission to St. George Hospital in Ajaltoun, Kersouan at around 7 p.m.

Her 73-year-old employer, Mona al-Shamali, told police that Bell was in “a stage of anger” and stabbed Shamali before turning the knife on herself. According to the sources, police said fingerprints on the knife were Bell’s. Shamali is receiving medical attention for a stab wound to the arm.

There are some 200,000 foreign domestic workers in Lebanon, hailing primarily from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nepal.

Human rights groups have criticized the kefala (sponsorship) system that ties domestic workers’ residency and right to work in Lebanon to a specific employer, saying the system promotes abusive practices.

The groups have also complained that police do not carry out full investigations when migrant workers die, and come to the conclusion of suicide too quickly. Police sources say they carry out full investigations into all deaths.

In a 2008 report, Human Rights Watch found that there had been an average of one death per week from unnatural causes among domestic workers in Lebanon, including suicide and falls from tall buildings.

Last March, Ethiopian domestic worker Alem Dechasa-Desisa hanged herself while in a psychiatric hospital where she had been taken after she was beaten outside her consulate. A film of the beating was made public and went viral, and Dechasa-Desisa’s death drew attention to the issues domestic workers face in the country.

The incident outside the consulate drew widespread condemnation from human rights groups.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 31, 2013, on page 4.




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