Lensa, aged 20, Ethiopian, came to Lebanon last July to work for a family who have a well-known haute couture business. She joined two other workers already with the family, one who had not been there for long and the other who had worked for them for approximately four years. She says in the first recording on the Facebook page This Is Lebanon: “I was abused from the very beginning. I thought about escape but I was forbidden to go outside the house, even to the store.” She adds, “They were beating me every day with an electrical cord. They wrapped my hair around their hands and dragged me around the room and smashed my head into the walls. She (Crystel) was chasing me with the scissors and attacking me. The son (Joe) was pressing his fingers into my eyes and pulling my hair. Every day they were planning how to abuse me.” She adds that after her arrival, “I haven’t called my family and she (Eleanore) said that she sent money to Ethiopia after 6 months but I don’t know if she really did or not. I haven’t informed the embassy because the Ethiopian who has worked in the house for 4 years will tell the employer everything.”
(This video is temporarily down. In the meantime, go to http://share.thisislebanon.org/iamlensa to see it.)
The Lebanese friend of Lensa’s aunt, who has been following the details of the case and trying to help the aunt, confirmed that in the six months following the time of Lensa’s arrival in Lebanon the aunt tried to contact Lensa via the owner of the business but Lensa’s employer didn’t let her speak to her and said she was busy and not to call again. Afterward, the aunt received a call from the mother in Ethiopia saying that they hadn’t received any money or heard any news from Lensa.
The Day of the Incident
In the first video, in which Lensa details her abuse, she says that the son “kicked me before he went out.” And he threatened her that if she hadn’t done enough sewing when he returned an hour and a half later, “you will see what I will do.” Then Lensa decided, according to the video, “to escape before he returned to the house to hurt me.”
Lensa’s escape (jumping from the second floor) took place on 11 March. She was immediately transferred to Serhal Hospital. She remained there about two weeks. Afterward, she returned to her employer’s house. The Lebanese friend of Lensa’s aunt says that “When the girl was in the hospital a Lebanese woman had compassion on her and brought her juice, which lead to a problem with the employers who told the Lebanese woman not to interfere and that she had no business giving anything to the girl. The woman then withdrew from any contact with her and asked an Ethiopian girl who was caring for an elderly man in the hospital to contact her since the situation seemed strange.” Lensa managed to give the Ethiopian girl her mother’s number who then contacted the aunt in Lebanon. The aunt received the call on 19 March and went at night to the hospital with domestic workers of the same nationality. Afterward, the aunt was forbidden to visit Lensa when she went to the hospital a number of times.
Lensa later retracted her testimony and in a second video, recorded in her employer’s house, said she loves the family and the family love her and she only recorded the first video as a way of getting back to Ethiopia. Her aunt has been allowed one closely-supervised visit since her return to the house during which members of the family were present. No one else has been able to get access to Lensa since. She is currently (as of 14 April) still a captive in the house unable to communicate with anyone outside.
Eleanore Couture Attempts to Sweep the Story Under the Rug
In response to Lensa’s opportunity to share her story, Crystel Khalil at Eleanore Couture desperately attempted to squash the story from getting traction. She went on LBC and forced Lensa to make a false confession.
Al Jadeed joined the long line of complicit onlookers to Lensa’s slavery and abuse. They wheeled Lensa’s hospital bed into the studio to be humiliated on live tv.
Lensa Lelisa’s Aunt Speaks Out
Before Al Jadeed ran their propaganda, we contacted them and gave them a video from Lensa’s Aunt, backing up Lensa’s testimony. Eleanore Couture runs a House of Horrors.
Brave Lebanese Protestors in front of Eleanore Couture
Afterward, many brave Lebanese activists and workers gathered in front of Eleanore Couture to protest the Kafala system and Lensa’s captivity.
Lensa Lelisa’s Mother Speaks Out Against Eleanore Couture
Finally, we received word from Lensa’s mother. She begged Eleanore Couture to send Lensa home, with or without payment. She just wants to see her daughter again. She is very distressed because Lensa has communicated with her that Eleanore Couture has threatened to send her home as a corpse.
Follow the money. It tells the truth. On the On the 20/2/18 the family remitted $290 (the result of pressure from the agency) and on 10/4/18 a further $450 was remitted – AFTER the release of the abuse video. This is contrary to General Security’s report that ““[Lelisa] has been living in her sponsor’s house for the past seven months, receives her monthly stipend and has not been victim of ill-treatment.”
Throughout this process, many journalists have written about this issue. We hope that Eleanore Couture responds to public pressure and frees Lensa and the girl who was going to jump with her. Join us in this campaign: https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsLebanon961/
In the News
- Human Rights Watch: “Lebanon: Migrant Worker’s Abuse Account” / “لبنان: عاملة منزلية مهاجرة تدعي تعرضها لانتهاكات“
- للمفكرة القانونية / The Legal Agenda: “نظاما الكفالة والعدالة في مرآة لينسل: هل يكفل نظام الكفالة الإفلات من العقاب؟“
- L’Orient-Le Jour: “Lensa, jeune Éthiopienne victime d’employeurs abusifs et d’un système inique“
- The Daily Star Lebanon: “Worker says she jumped to escape abuse“
- News.com.au: “‘They beat me with an electric cable’: Maid breaks both legs escaping alleged abuse“
- الأخبار / Al Akhbar: “لينسا ليست وحيدة“
- The Sun: “FLEEING ‘HELL’ Maid breaks both legs jumping from balcony after ‘being beaten with an electric cable everyday by her fashion designer employer’s family’“
- المدن / Al Modon: “لينسا تُعاد من المستشفى إلى منزل معنّفيها: تحرّك لتحريرها“
- The Daily Mail: “‘They beat me with an electric cable’: Maid, 20, breaks both her legs after jumping from a second-floor balcony ‘to escape months of physical abuse at the hands of her Lebanese fashion designer employer’s family’“
- Blik: “TUKLI SU ME GAJTANOM“
- Prensa Latina: “Viral en redes sociales, testimonio de empleada doméstica en Líbano“
- Middle East Eye: “Ethiopian Maid Jumps from Balcony to Escape Abuse“
- Global Voices: “Με έδερναν καθημερινά με ένα ηλεκτρικό καλώδιο… Μου κοπανούσαν το κεφάλι στους τοίχους”
- The Daily Star: “Ethiopian Domestic Worker Fell Accidentally From Balcony – General Security“
- The Daily Mail: “We’ll Kill You and Send Your Corpse Home“
- l’Orient-Le Jour: Lensa, qui s’est jetée du balcon et était payée 82 dollars par mois, n’a pas été maltraitée, estime la SG
- The Turban Times: Labour Day In Lebanon: This Is How Domestic Workers Celebrated
- desInformemonos: Lensa, la trabajadora del hogar etíope maltratada en el Líbano, es “el vivo retrato de la kafala”
- Equal Times: Lensa is the Poster Girl for Kafala in Lebanon
- La Tinta: Trabajadoras del hogar migrantes maltratadas en el Líbano