INTRODUCTION: Article Review: Human Rights in Lebanon

Article (4) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

By definition, a slave is a person who belongs, just as property does, to a person or to a group of persons. This means that a slave has no rights, no liberty and no independent existence. This also means that the owner or owners can sell the slave for money as well as order him or her to do any acts or involve in behaviors. Slaves simply do not have the right to say no to their masters.

The objective of this article was to emphasize the importance of human life, the human body, and the human being as a free individual who should not be enslaved by anyone. The human being is born free and should remain free. No human being or power should or can have the ability to confiscate human freedom in return for commercial gain.

Another objective of this article is to recognize the equality of all human beings regardless how they were born, where they were born and what they do in life. Slavery is a degradation of humanity and cannot be accepted in a world where the human being should be of greatest value.

We may imagine that there are slaves in parts of the world such as Africa or Asia, but who can imagine that slavery also exists in Lebanon?

Case Study: Young Slaves in Tripoli

Born to a very poor family in Tripoli, Fatima was given over by her family to a rich household where she would work as a maid in return for her food and shelter. The girl was virtually sold off by her impoverished parents, and her new masters did not pay her off any salary. For over a year, the child was treated as a slave. She was not allowed to leave the house except in the company of her mistress. She was reduced to servitude, having to carry out all kinds of household works from early morning until late at night. She was not paid any money since she was owned by the family.

Nor was Fatima sent to school like children of her age or given any chance to improve her life. As a matter of fact, her status as slave eventually led to inflicting upon her all kinds of horrifying and inhuman torture. Taken to hospital for obvious physical abuse, the medics found out that the child had been subjected to all kinds of severe and inhuman beating, including the extinguishing of lit cigarettes in her skin. The scars had been accumulated over the months and the child was suffering from serious malnutrition and symptoms of nervous breakdown.

Another case was reported late in November 1999, of another child, Khodr Kanjo, also from Tripoli. Khodr was taken to hospital in a critical condition after severe beating by his master and mistress. Like Fatima, Khodor was enslaved by a richer family where he was to work to earn his food and shelter, but basically to be owned by this family, both body and soul. The medical inspection of Khodor’s body showed that he had been subjected to a brutal treatment for several months, in addition to starvation and various forms of abuse. It was also obvious that the child was worked off and suffering from long hours of labor that will have serious implications on his physical development in the future.


The cases of Khodor and Fatima attracted a lot of attention because both of them are Lebanese and very young. But there are many others cases of slavery that take place in Lebanon, especially the enslavement of foreigners. Workers from Sri Lanka, Africa and various parts of the world are brought over to Lebanon, their passports held in the custody of the employer and their residence restricted completely within the household. These spend their days and nights working as slave servants, and the money they are paid hardly covers their living.

All these practices are abuses of human rights. Slavery is now taking a new turn in Lebanon, but in principle, it remains slavery where human dignity and pride are assaulted, stepped on, and ignored. Instead, the human being becomes nothing but an asset which is to carry out as much work as possible and with the minimal possible expenses. And if this machines fails or refuses to work, torture and brutality will be used to make it work again. How much longer can the Lebanese government deafen its ears to such violations of human rights?

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