Migrant Workers Task Force, together with Antiracism Movement and Non-Resident Nepali Association, organized the 2011 International Workers’ Day march through Hamra and Sanayeh in Beirut. The march was a rousing success, as nearly two hundred activists of varying nationalities took to the streets demanding Fair Rights for Migrant Workers and an end to Racism in Lebanon. The march took us through the western quarters of Beirut, where scores of onlookers were confronted with signs calling for Economic and Social Justice for Migrant Workers as well chants that derided the Lebanese state for its racist practices and called out in a clear voice, “Al-Sha3b Yorid Isqat al3ansouriye (The People Want An End to Racism).”
The March united activists of all stripes and of all origins- Nepalese, Lebanese, Filipina, Ethiopian, Bangladeshi, European, Syrian, Sri Lankan, Sudanese, and American- into a joint call for better working conditions in Lebanon. We began near St. Francis Church, at the beginning of Hamra St., where individuals drew slogans onto posters after some deliberation and created messages that reflected their personal demands for May Day in Lebanon.
We proceeded to lift our voices down Hamra St, through Hamra’s residential quarters, and then onto Sanayeh, blocking traffic the entire way. The festive mood was punctuated with chants proclaiming solidarity with all workers in Lebanon, irrespective of nationality, as well as calls for racist “Madames” and “Misters” to beware!
The mood turned sombre as we marched down a shady side street in Sanayeh, where we paused to remember Teresa, a Filipina domestic worker who had died after falling from an apartment onto the pavement. Her case, like hundreds of others of dead migrant workers in Lebanon, was never properly investigated by the police, and so to this day her friends and family still have no idea why or how she really died.
After a moment in silence in her memory, we continued marching, finishing in the face of the Ministry of Interior, the Lebanese Ministry that should be charged with investigating the crimes committed against migrant workers. As we lined up, holding placards for passerby to see on that busy street, the march ended to loud chants of “Libnen Dawle 3ansouriye (Lebanon is a Racist State).”
Hats off to all who participated and to those who coordinated! And with a message of solidarity to workers around the world who continue to fight to reclaim their rights, particularly those in Occupied Palestine!
See the full Flickr photo album here!