An Ivory Coast-based news website's story revealing the existence of six women in Nabatieh town in southern Lebanon who were reportedly tricked into slavery-like working conditions has sparked a government investigation.
According to the Koaci.com's recent piece, the two Togolese, two Burkinabé and two Ghanaian women were tricked by a network that recruits cheap domestic labor from the African continent into working “in a country with a culture that considers blacks like sub-humans”. Akissi Kouamé, the author of the story, wrote that the women, who were kidnapped not long ago, were severely beaten by their captors after they attempted to escape.
One of the Togolese women managed to call the website's Ivory Coast office and explain her plight:
“Je veux rentrer chez moi, on m'a amené en trois fois au bureau de la mafia pour être punie corporellement parce que j'ai jugé insupportable de continuer de vivre chez la dame” [...] “On m'a roué de gifles et d'autres punitions corporelles avant de m'amener dans une vielle maison avec d'autres filles également en otage qui ont simplement voulu arrêter, comme moi, de travailler chez leurs maitresses” [...] “On nous a vendues dans ce pays” nous a t'elle indiqué en pleure ajoutant: “On a des diplômes d'apprentissage et on nous dit que nous allions seulement venir travailler ici, et voila que nous sommes devenues des esclave”.
“I want to go home. They've taken me three times to the ‘Mafia bureau’ to be physically punished because I've deemed living with ‘Madame’ to be intolerable” [...] “They've slapped me severely and have punished me physically numerous times before taking me to an old house with other women, also kidnapped, who wanted like me to stop working for their ‘Madam’” [...] “They've sold us in this country,” she told us while crying, and added, “We have school and university diplomas and we were told that we were simply going to work here, but they made us slaves.”
The 24-year-old's phone was confiscated after her “Madam” found out that she had called the website, according to the story.
Before hanging up, the woman told the website the name of her alleged slave master, “Safi Kamal”. The reporter tried to contact him at the number provided, but said that Kamal immediately hung up as soon as there was mention of victims.
According to the piece, the second Togolese woman called an hour later, but the conversation only lasted 45 seconds, interrupted by the woman pleading “No! Don't hit me!” as men shouted. She was able to make ask the reporter:
Pardon, faites quelque chose pour me permettre de rejoindre ma famille en Afrique.
I’m sorry. Please do something to let me be with my family in Africa.
The news stayed on Koaci.com for 10 days without a Lebanese news station looking into the matter. But after publishing a translation of the piece on my blog, Dalal Mawad from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) investigated:
فما حقيقة هذه المعلومات التي تناقلها موقع إفريقي؟
What truth lies behind these claims made by the African website?
What Mawad discovered is detailed in the video report above. Using the phone number provided by Koaci.com, Mawad called Safi Kamal and feigned that she was interested in hiring a maid. Kamal assured her that the maid wouldn't be allowed to have any breaks or talk on the phone. When asked what would happen if the maid bothered her owner, Kamal assured the caller that the woman can be “dealt with”.
Not knowing that it was the LBC who called him, Kamal denied everything when Mawad went to Nabatiyeh to interview him. Mawad was able to interview another woman who claims to have been beaten twice and not allowed to travel back home.