Dipendra Uprety of This Is Lebanon Marches for Labour Rights

This Is Lebanon: Our Fight For Domestic Workers

THIS IS LEBANON (TIL) is a federally registered non-profit in Canada run by a coalition of former migrant workers and activists demanding the protection of migrant domestic workers, and an end to labour exploitation and abuse, with the aim to effectively end government-sanctioned, modern-day slavery in Lebanon. We aim to empower domestic workers, informing them of their rights and supporting their access to justice. Our work combines campaigning and advocating through national and international media to bring this issue to the forefront and raise awareness among both the host population and the affected communities. We also provide legal and medical referrals, as well as emergency protective support.

TIL’s mission has expanded from simply exposing abuses to one of campaign and advocacy. Without setting out to become such, TIL’s Facebook page is now the ‘hotline’ for abused domestic workers who have no one else to turn to. When the families of domestic workers write to the Facebook page to ask for help, we contact employers asking them to pay their worker and in cases of forced labor, ask them to send her home. This has resulted in many women receiving their salaries and being repatriated. One such case was Marcela who was owed $10,000.

"While the future of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon looks bleak, Patricia asserts that her group's work comes from their love for the country: 'We love Lebanon, between us we have spent over 90 years in Lebanon," she says. "All we want is some legal protection for these women who are being enslaved.'" - Sarah Khalil's Interview with Patricia in The New Arab

TIL aims to raise international awareness about the kafala system, which is essentially modern-day slavery, by exposing the abuses and those who perpetrate them with impunity. Only in cases where the employers refuse to pay salaries or have committed abuses which amount to torture, sexual violence, slavery and slave-like conditions are they exposed on the Facebook page. Most cases are resolved peaceably and never make it onto our Facebook page or website.

"This Is Lebanon has succeeded in raising the visibility and voice of migrant domestic workers more in one year than all other NGOs have in 10 years,” - Mat Nashed's Interview with Farah Salka in Ozy Media

The goal is to keep adding to the weight of evidence until the Lebanese government abolishes the Kafala system and reforms labour laws so that migrant domestic workers enjoy rights as workers and as people. From humble beginnings, TIL is now supported by a number of women who were formerly domestic workers in Lebanon with a combined experience of more than 96 years there. They speak the victims’ languages and are intimately acquainted with their problems. They are supported in their mission by numerous Lebanese volunteers both inside and outside Lebanon who help with rescues, translation and other on-the-ground support.

The kafala system of government-sanctioned and government-enforced slavery persists in Lebanon. We care about the reputation of Lebanon, but we believe that denial of this issue will not solve the problem. That’s why we are advocating for change and encouraging more people to speak out. We believe in amplifying the voices of those most affected by the system, as well as the countless Lebanese that are actively working to dismantle it. Click here to learn more about why we chose and keep the name This Is Lebanon for our advocacy.

Our History

This Is Lebanon (TIL) was founded on Labor Day (1 May) 2017 by Dipendra Uprety and Priya Subedi, former migrant workers in Lebanon. Dipendra worked in Lebanon for 15 years and served as an honorary representative of the Nepali Consulate helping many abused domestic workers. In just a few years, he saw 42 domestic worker corpses shipped home; in only one instance was the murderer brought to justice - a non-Lebanese. In 2014, after many years of committed, voluntary activism, Dipendra and Priya immigrated to Canada determined to help domestic workers in Lebanon from a place of safety. The Facebook page was begun with the goal of exposing the exploitation and gross abuse of domestic workers and to give them a voice.

"The strength of reaction against volunteer-run This is Lebanon is also an indicator of effectiveness. Despite their controversial tactics, they are one of the few groups who have managed to bring tangible change to the lives of migrant domestic workers while raising awareness within Lebanese society of the injustices implied in the kafala system.” - Roshan De Stone and David Suber in The New Internationalist

This is Lebanon is the first organisation to expose and name the abusers; it was thought that if the abusers were named and shamed, it would act as a deterrent to others. Our first post was the story of Joe Semaan, a Lebanese man who impersonated a policeman to sexually harass and rob domestic workers. There were multiple complaints against him but no legal action had been taken against him. That first post received 20,000 views and led to Joe being apprehended by the police. Our second story was about Halima Ubpah who had been kept in conditions that amount to slavery by Ibtissam Saade, a Lebanese politician and advocate for women’s rights, for 10 years. Due to pressure from the page, Halima was sent home and we followed her to make a documentary of her story. That video quickly spread online, and This Is Lebanon’s efforts to expose abuses were lauded by many. Interest grew in this small movement, our followers increased, and many volunteers signed up to become involved. In 2022, This is Lebanon became a federally registered non-profit organisation in Canada.