Joe Semaan: The Fraud Faking Being Lebanese Police To Abuse Foreign Maids

Meet Joe Semaan, another entity for us to add to the growing list of filth associated with Lebanon and whose mere existence is a waste of space, and an abomination to every single inch of advancement we’re trying to make in the many transgressions against human rights in this country.

I was told about Joe yesterday by a couple of activists who are trying to advance migrant worker rights in Lebanon, and highlighting the many transgressions against them as well as the immense repercussions that the abuse our law permits has on their well-being. It’s only yesterday that an Ethiopian maid committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of the 7th floor apartment where she was working. In fact, the rates of suicide and deaths of migrant workers in the country are worse than that and will be talking about them in a future post.

Returning to Joe, it seems that our macho man was utterly bored at his meaningless existence which led him to disguise himself as a police officer, which is a crime as far as I know, and persecute migrant workers whose unfortunate paths cross his, leading him to harass them about where they’re working, where the money they have is from, and eventually raping them.

This kind of filth has had many victims, with one filipino worker’s message resonating with many others who have fallen prey to his crimes.

The post, on This Is Lebanon, reads as follows:

I would like to share about a Lebanese man that is pretending to be a policeman and catching foreigners like Filipinos, Ethiopians, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshi, especially those who don’t have documents. He has a white colored jeep but I don’t have the plate number. His name is Joe Semaan and you can find him on Facebook.

This is what happened to me. I was going home from work and was at Makallis Roundabout near to May Supermarket. A jeep stopped and the driver asked me for my residency permit. Unfortunately, I don’t have one so he forced me to get in his car and because I was afraid of him, I got in.

He asked me what was in my bag and I told him nothing. He asked me if I had alcohol or drugs and he checked inside. My bag is small and I had a little wallet inside which had $200 in it. He asked me angrily where I had got the money from and I told him it was from my salary. He asked me where I worked and who my sponsor was. He said he’d take me to my sponsor’s place so he could talk to him so I said ok, but when he was driving I noticed that he was going the wrong way (we were on the road to Monsourieh). I told him he was going in the wrong direction and that we were near my work place.

He told me he’d decided to take me to the police station. I begged him not to take me to the police as I needed to work to support my children in the Filippines. He told me it was my lucky day but I needed to do him a favour. I asked him what it was and he told me, “You are the one who knows what I want.” I told him I didn’t know what he wanted and he told me I had to sleep with him. I said, “Aren’t you afraid I might have HIV?” and he said he had a condom. I begged him for mercy and he said, “If you don’t want to sleep with me, give me a blow job”; I told him I’d rather go to the police station.

He drove me far above Monsourieh to where there were no houses. I told him I wouldn’t sleep with him and he should take me to the police. I asked him if I could call my boyfriend to tell him that I’d been caught and was being taken to the police but he wouldn’t let me call. Thank God, he let me go and dropped me at Abu Khalil Supermarket near Makallis. Before he dropped me off, he told me, “Next time I see you, you must get in my car quickly without me even talking to you.” I asked him his name and he told me it was Elie Haddad.

As soon as I got out, I ran home. When I got home I checked my wallet and found the $200 had gone. I cried a lot. He told me before he let me go that I would never forget this day. I told my friend what had happened and my friend said, “I know that man. I was also picked up by him in Bikfaya. I saw him on Facebook under the name of Joe Semaan. That was 3 years ago. He does it all the time.”

When I searched for him on Facebook, I found him. His profile pic was of the same man that picked me up. He works for an insurance company and lives in Antelias. When I saw him on Facebook, I saved his picture and created a group on Facebook to warn other Filipinos about him. Within an hour many, many people responded to the post saying that they also were victims. Not only Filipinos but also Ethiopians said they’d been picked up by him. We are asking for help from different organisations so that his man will be stopped. I am scared to testify but all his victims should unite and testify against him.

Such filth cannot run unchecked anymore. Lebanon’s ISF needs to get on top of it and arrest him, as well as make sure he cannot harm any other person anymore.

Advertisements

Beirut Filled With Pride Flags, Despite The Cultural Terrorism That Lebanon’s Government Allows

Pictures via Helem.

In Lebanon, religious extremism and cultural terrorism are more accepted than basic human rights. We’ve known this for a while, but got another reminder this week when a fringe religiously extreme group with so much political clout managed to get the Lebanese government to force the cancellation of two scheduled events as part of Beirut’s pride week.

The latest event was organized by the Arab World’s first ever LGBT advocacy NGO Helem, and was aimed at raising awareness through actual facts and expert opinion about the LGBT community in Lebanon. It was supposed to be one of the last events to take place during Beirut’s Pride Week schedule, until Lebanon’s security forces “couldn’t ensure the security of the event” anymore, as was relayed to the location that was hosting it. When Metro El Madina, the location hosting the event, resisted, the pressure from official sides in Lebanon’s governance also rose leading to the event’s cancellation.

As I said before, religious extreme group in Lebanon are a cancer in our society, regardless of which religion they practice. They come in all forms and have been given so much power by our political system that they can literally walk all over our personal liberties and the only thing we can do is sit by and watch as they do so, under the guise of various dimwitted slogans that they permeate, mostly about how anything their religious beliefs don’t conform with is a western ploy to destroy our societies and a sin aimed at fragmenting the fabrics of Lebanon’s holy society.

Except it’s exactly their religious extremism that’s the main threat behind everything Lebanon stands for, when it comes to its societal fabric and construct. The fact that they are allowed to perpetuate their sickening beliefs and force them onto everyone else, especially when the people they’re trying to oppress are acting within their legal and constitutional rights, is horrifying. And this won’t change any time soon.

Shame on Lebanon’s government. They’re the side to blame about both cancellations here. They’re the ones who couldn’t put an irrelevant religiously extreme group in its place and allow an event that was planned within the framework of Lebanon’s guaranteed freedom of expression from going through unscathed. They’re the ones who have allowed our rights as Lebanese to be entirely dependent on whether they abide by the moral code of some religious group somewhere. They’re the ones who don’t have the spine to stand up for the citizens they’re bound to protect.

If Lebanon’s government thinks that massive PR overhaul the country needs will only come through articles in American or European media about how beautiful the country is to visit, they’re massively mistaken. It will come through events such as Pride Week that show the world that this country in the Middle East is grossly different than all of its surroundings and that minds are more open and tolerant here, and that maybe it’d be worth looking at Lebanon with consideration.

And yet, despite all of the religious extremism and cultural terrorism that’s permitted by our political system, Beirut’s Mar Mikhael neighborhood has its bars filled with the LGBT pride flag, also known as the rainbow flag, in order to celebrate the end of the Arab world’s first ever pride week.

As you can see from the above picture gallery, with pictures taken off Helem’s Facebook page, more than a dozen bars around the area sported the flag on one of their busiest nights of the week as a sign of solidarity. This shows that, against all odds, Lebanon’s youth is coming together to advance rights in the country for everyone. Maybe there is light at the end of that tunnel after all?

It’s truly a beautiful sight to see Beirut, against all odds and all threats, wear those flags in such a high profile area and literally not give a fuck about the police or the government behind the police or the extremists who run our government behind the scenes. Perhaps it bodes for a better future. Perhaps one might be foolish in being hopeful, but for such flags to fly high in the Middle East is, well, unheard of. Beirut literally did that.

Now let’s wait for those religiously extreme people’s minds to blow.

Lebanon Pioneers In The Middle East: Allows Trans People To Legally Change Gender

In the grand scheme of things, today was quite a bad day for Lebanese law. Letting a confessed terrorist go out on bail is not only a mark of shame for the entire country, but for any legal system that allows such a thing to happen. But this is not about Michel Samaha.
This is about a lesser publicized decision in Lebanese courts today that has set motion in the region’s most liberal countries to strengthen its role as such: changing one’s gender can be legally done in Lebanon because it pertains to personal liberties, as per a Lebanese court.
Published in The Legal Agenda earlier today, the details are as follows.

In 2014, a transman submitted an official request to Lebanese courts in order to legally change his gender from female to male. The court at the time refused. So this man took it to Lebanon’s Appeal Court (Este2naf) which took an unprecedented and saw that the change in question was not only allowed, but it fell within the rights of the man at hand, saying – and I quote: “A person’s right to receive treatment for ailments both physical and mental is fundamental.”

Lebanon’s Appeal Court decision comes after consulting with experts on the matter of sexual identity and sexual disorders, psychologists and psychiatrists, after which it reached the aforementioned conclusion noting that “the treatment the plaintiff went through, both hormonal and surgical, is his right as a human being and cannot be taken away.”

Of course, this does not make the decision final as Lebanon’s Supreme Court can still nullify it, as they did with the infamous Captagon decision several months ago. But this precedence in question is one of which I believe we as Lebanese should be proud.

Why? Because we are the only country in the region as of now where Trans rights have risen to such prominence, and have even reached legal victories.

Because even with our dysfunctional parliament that can’t legalize to protect the citizens it’s supposed to govern, our legal system has taken it on itself to try and do so in some aspects, and it’s doing so as the best countries in the world would do. 

There’s a long way to go still.

While this is indeed great, it remains an isolated court ruling that, in order to become law, has to be passed by parliament into one, and we all know how good our parliament is at passing laws, let alone controversial one. 

We have huge portions in our country whose rights are decimated. Our women are still fighting for their rights. Gay people are still fighting for their rights. Any minority that is not stereotypical Lebanese male is fighting for its right, but this is a victory to one of those minorities and as such it’s a victory for them all.
There’s a long way to go when it comes to changing stereotypes too. I can imagine the many rolling their eyes as they are reading these lines. The notion that individual rights are not a matter of collective opinion is paramount and in my opinion should be the law of the land everywhere and anywhere.

But today, despite all the negatives, this is a tiny beam of hope in a land that is going backward day by day. So maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for civility in the jungle after all. 

“Brands For Less” Employees in Dekwane Beat Up African Woman & Get Away With It

This story will make your blood boil. 

NowLebanon broke the story of Nafi, a worker from Abidjan, who was visiting a “Brands for Less” store in Dekwane to buy gym clothes at a cheap price. 
While at the shop, she was accused of being a thief, naturally because she was black, not Lebanese and not white. She was searched. They didn’t find anything on her. She tried to leave, and they searched her again, because you know strip searching her the first time was not enough and who knows, she might have stolen something while being eyed by every racist asshole in the store. So Nafi accused the workers of racism towards her. That was when the manager pushed her to the ground and beat her up until she started bleeding.

It didn’t end there. One of the employees there, another racist asshole with no ounce of humanity, shouted at her “leave now or I will cut you in half,” followed by insults that included calling her a “black prostitute.”

Ironically, the employee who called Nafi a prostitue was a woman. Then the woman tried to hit Nafi who, with her sister, tried to defend herself. The other employees joined in on the beating. 

Nothing like a lynch mob to brighten up someone’s day.

When the manager suspected that someone might have called the police, he made sure to call them and tell them that she was *clearly* on drugs and drunk and that they tried to make a mess at his shop.

So he beat them up.

Read the full story by NowLebanon here.

To say this is despicable is an understatement.

Here are a few words for these Brands for Less employees, those who beat up Nafi and those who stood there idly doing nothing, watching her privacy get invaded by two searches after being accused of being a thief, then not interfering as she was beaten up twice:

They are abominations. They are the filth of the filth of this country. They are a waste of oxygen. They are a waste of space. They are a waste of the energy I’m using in order to write this about them.

They are undeserving, racist, despicable, disgusting, inhumane. Calling them animals elevates their status. They are not animals. They are parasites whose entire existence is contingent upon feasting on those that are weakened by this country that doesn’t respect anyone and makes sure no one is respected.

They are those Lebanese that prosper in the fact that this country has no rules, has no respect for human rights, that this country has police that will believe your lies over another person’s bloody face just because of the color of her skin, that this country lets you exist.

I call on whoever reads this to boycott that “Brands For Less” store in Dekwane. Those employees shouldn’t just be fired; they should be jailed.

I’m terribly sorry that Nafi has to work in this country, that she has to be subjected to such levels of racism that are not allowed in 2015, that she was violated and will not have her rights defended by anyone with power.

Being Gay Is Worse Than Being ISIS: 2 Lebanese Men Tortured For 3 Weeks in Prison Over Their Sexuality

You, as a Lebanese, are as irrelevant as a cockroach. Your rights are the doormat every single person with power steps on to ascend up the scale of political prowess.

A couple of weeks ago, two minute-long videos were leaked out of Roumieh jail. They featured security officers beating up on Islamist suspects – people who have not been convicted yet. I won’t be sharing the videos here, because there’s no point in propagating such barbaric things.

Mini-Lebanese-hell broke loose as a consequence. In the quiet Ramadan month, politically, the bombshell of torture happening in Lebanese jail – surprise, surprise! – got some people on the streets burning tires, blocking roads. It got Ashraf Rifi, our minister of justice, up in a fit as to how such a thing could ever happen – how shocking – but we all know it was because those tortured are Sunni.

Many were ecstatic about the videos, as I was able to assess with the sheer enthusiasm that many of my Facebook friends shared them. Human rights are not an argument to some people it seemed: those people killed our soldiers, they’d shout at you. Sure, they might have… but how are we better than them if we film them being humiliated and then use those videos for political fuel? Oh, you just love ISIS. 

But this post is not about ISIS torture videos.

Another reaction that took place when the Roumieh videos surfaced was utter shock that such stuff happen in Lebanese jails. Torture? In Lebanon? Mais c’est pas possible? Le liban est le plus beau pays du monde, oh mon dieu. 

Those people clearly lived in their version of Lebanese Switzerland where Beirut served as a Middle Eastern Geneva. The wake-up call that they got to realize that they were indeed living in a third world country where their value is worthless was shocking: this is not a land where human rights are scripture, where your value as a human being is paramount and where your sanctity is holy.

The story of Roy Azar, who had a sound grenade aimed at his chest, killing him a few weeks before his release time, was never front-page news. Roy Azar is not fuel for Ashraf Rifi to ride on the Sunni-anger bandwagon.

The story of Jamil Abou Ghina who died of a heart attack due to the severe torture he experienced at the hand of sadists in Lebanese jail was not front-page news. Jamil Abou Ghina was not filmed being beaten up and laughed at by some irrelevant security officer who probably got orders from high above to do so.

But this isn’t about Jamil or Roy either.

L’Orient Le Jour broke a story a few days ago that I think everyone should read (link). It’s the story of torture that also took place recently, but clearly did not get the attention that a terrorist getting beaten up in Roumieh got.

On June 9th, 2015, Omar and his friend Samer were on their way to spend the weekend in the South when they were stopped at a checkpoint that found a few grams of weed in their car. So they were arrested, their belongings confiscated, and were taken to be interrogated and ended up spending the night in jail where they were subjected to drug testing, all of which turned out negative.

So with no more charges under their belt, our lovely police officers went through Omar’s phone conversation with his friend Samer and noticed that he called him “habibi.” So they accused Omar of being homosexual, which he denied. Then they took out the negative drug test result, told him it was positive, in an attempt to get him to give out details about drug dealers in Beirut. When that failed, they brought out his friend Samer, stripped him and started beating him up with their hands, with their canes. They submerged his head in icy water, in attempt to get them to confess to both drugs and homosexuality charges.

Samer was beaten up, drowned, electrocuted. He ended up confessing to the charges. Then they started torturing Omar to give our names of people in the Lebanese gay community, which he didn’t do. It was then that the police called Omar and Samer’s parents and told them that their children were gay.

When Omar and Samer’s parents arrived to the place where they were held, they were not allowed to see their children. When they asked if their children had been tortured, the officer assured them: walaw? Where do you think we live?

The two men spent 6 days in Tyre where they were faced with a choice: either get beaten up or give out names of gay men in Lebanon. Then they were transferred to the infamous Hobeich police station, where they stayed for 5 days, in a 20 squared meter cells with 20 other people. Then they were transferred to holding in Saida where they stayed for 8 days, with 200 other prisoners who were informed by the security officers there that Omar and Salem were homosexuals.

Omar was then released two days later after being seen by a judge. His friend Samer was kept in jail, until L’Orient Le Jour contacted Nohad el Machnouk who took it upon himself to address the issue. Samer was liberated 30 minutes later.

Of course, the story of Omar and Samer did not receive front-page attention in Lebanon. No one burned tires. No one closed roads. No one got upset. It simply passed by, like any other piece of news, irrelevant and useless.

Why would a Lebanese MP care? Defending the rights of two men who were violated in such a way does not help him with a populace that only seems to care when the issue is sectarian.

Why would Ashraf Rifi, the minister of justice, care that severe injustice has befallen Lebanese citizens when those citizens are maybe not Sunni, or not in any way material for him to further fuel his ascension atop the Future Movement in the absence of Saad?

Why would the Lebanese populace care about two men who were beaten up, electrocuted, humiliated, and have their reputation ruined?

Why would the staunch new-found defenders of human rights who popped out of the blue after the surfacing of the Roumieh videos also rise up to the mantel after such a horrific story as well?

Omar and Samer are just one example in a growing list of stories of torture across the Lebanese Republic. The only difference is this time Omar spoke up for himself and his friend.

How many Lebanese are there among us who have had to suffer horrific transgressions just for falling under the pawns of some barbaric animal with power and are too afraid to tell their story for fear of repercussions? How many stories are there, similar to that of Omar and Samer, of people who are being violated just because someone in power felt like it? How many Lebanese are there, who have been accused of drug possession, of drug use, of homosexuality, or any other charge, had to be subjected to severe transgressions just because?

The sad part is that there will be people in the country to say that Omar and Samer deserve what they got, just as there were people who say those prisoners in Roumieh deserve what they got as well. Welcome to the Republic of shame, we offer you 18 sects, diversity, a capital with identity issues, mountains close to the sea, and 21-st century torture to feast your eyes, senses and human rights.

 

On Lebanese Racists: The Guy Who Wouldn’t Shake Hands With A Black Person Because He’s Afraid To Get The Color

It started off like any other Sunday on Twitter. The masses decide to go for an afternoon trend to entertain their boredom and everyone seems to jump on it. This Sunday’s top trending topic worldwide was #Confessions. Naturally, people jumped on it to divulge their deepest heart’s secrets to the millions out there ignoring them.

One of those was a fellow Lebanese citizen who goes by the name Think Sultan, ironic as that handle might be, with a sizeable 4.6K Twitter following. At first, his confessions were simple:

And then, because Sultan felt very at ease probably, he decided to drop his magnum opus:

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 1

He “may” sound racist, you guys.

Of course, the tweet didn’t exactly pass under the radar. Anis Tabet of Let’s Talk About Movies was appalled and expressed his disgust at what he read, to which Sultan replied with the following brilliant notion:

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 2

 

He can’t be serious, right?

ThinkSultan Racist tweet - 3Umm, no. He was. With a few exclamation points to boot.

ThinkSultan racist tweet 4

And if you thought that he’d be slammed left and right for this, you thought wrong. Some were on his side, defending him because “when was the last time you shook a maid’s hand?”

ThinkSultan racist Tweet - 6

What he did is clearly his freedom of speech (or speach?) because other people are fakers. Fakers gonna fake fake fake fake?

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 5

 

Clearly it was just all of us being too sensitive.

 

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 7

 

Which means that Sultan gets to put his cool shades on, because what he said doesn’t matter.

 

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 8

 

After all, it might as well just be a phobia?

ThinkSultan Racist tweet- 9

I suppose it would be stating the obvious but Sultan doesn’t have a black-people-and-their-skin-color-being-too-dissolvable-phobia, he is plainly yet another Lebanese racist who thinks he can get away with it just because the country he exists in enables this.

This is not a matter of opinion. This not a matter of freedom of speech. This is not even a matter that is up for analysis: Sultan is yet another Lebanese who thinks black people are beneath him because of their skin color, because he’s probably used to see them being abused at the jobs their life conditions force them to undertake, because he’s just so much better for being white. And that is the only truth here.

I thought long about writing this and whether highlighting such racism serves any purpose. I figured that highlighting it is not only a duty, it’s a must. Showing people like Sultan and those supporting him that their behavior is not okay, that their mentality is an abomination.

This isn’t a matter of “opinion respected but let’s agree to disagree.” This isn’t a debate or an argument. This is plainly disgraceful to every decent Lebanese out there. It is disgraceful to all the strides that human rights have gone through in the past few years. It is shameful that such mentalities can be so proud and public in 2015 and not get any slack for it whatsoever.

This comes at a time when migrant workers in Lebanon are the victims of rampant abuse, horrid marketing campaigns that auction them off like cattle (link), recurrent suicide attempts, next to no basic rights and a labor law that borders on slavery. Add people who probably think they deserve all of that to the list of things that are wrong in this country.

We are born with many things we cannot change: our skin color, our parents, our home country, our identity, our genes, our sexual orientation. It is after we’re born that they teach us to be afraid of those who are different: different color, different religion, different region. Critical thinking is what allows many of us to realize that no, these differences are irrelevant and that, at the end of the day, that person who is different is not just another mass of melanin waiting to be dissolved on us.

In his twitter bio, Sultan states that he is a “catalyst for change” as well as a “critical thinker.” If this is catalyzing a change and thinking critically, then Sultan can keep both his change and his thinking. Non-opinion not respected.

ThinkSultan Racist tweet - 11

Truer words have never been spoken, albeit they’re too ironic coming from a person like him. What’s another explanation he gave? This is the real world not utopia.

ThinkSultan Racist Tweet - 10

Yes, we are all aware this is the real world and not utopia. But this is also 2015 and not 300BC. Get with the times. Think critically. Grow up. Be human.

Disgusting Lebanese People: The “Help” Doesn’t Get a Chair… The Purse Does

Disclaimer: This post was published originally on Sunday October 20th. I then took it down as per Dyala’s request because she got word that the family had actually asked the maid to sit and she refused.

My friend Dyala Badran was having lunch at a Beiruti restaurant today when she spotted something that made her twist in anger.

A Lebanese family was sitting across the place from her having their Sunday lunch. They were all seated happily, enjoying their food. The father was cuddling his newborn who was sitting on his mother’s lap. And there was their maid, standing there, clutching the chair that was empty… save for the bag of the madame.

And Dyala documented that moment in picture.

Let’s talk about two scenarios.

Scenario #1: 

The maid wasn’t actually told to sit as Dyala was told, in which case I wonder what is it about the madame’s brain that got her to think that poor human being, who probably spends more time with that woman’s children, looking on their table had no right for a chair. Oh, nevermind. How could a Lebanese share a table with the Help? It’s so beneath us, duh!

The maid actually sat at one point to nurse the baby. Then she was told to stand up again after finishing.

The madame probably thinks she’s doing her maid a great service by taking her out with them for Sunday lunch. Who’s willing to bet she will brag about her open-mindedness in that regard to her friends in a few days? Who’s willing to bet she may have also forgotten to feed her lunch? Who’s also willing to bet she’s even prouder of that uniform she got her because “their clothes are just too filthy?”

Scenario #2:

The family asked the maid to sit and she refused. People took this as a sign that the family is good, that people treat maids well but they don’t want to benefit from our goodness as Lebanese.

Has anyone wondered though: why did that person refuse to sit? Why does she refuse to take a chair? What has led this person to believe that sitting, as an equal to the family on that table, is an abomination? What has gotten that poor woman to believe that she shouldn’t take the seat that the bag ought to have?

Conclusion:

Regardless of whether scenario #1 or #2 played out in that restaurant yesterday, a pattern emerges of a disgusting Lebanese mentality that manifests in a behavior that believes sharing the table with that person is a disgrace, a lowering standards. That woman didn’t sit because this country is brimming with disgusting individuals who don’t think she deserves an empty chair.

Dyala has written her own blog post on the matter in which she has declared “shame on [her]” for taking down the picture. I regret hiding this blogpost yesterday as well.

We “import” these people in a form of modern day slavery. We work them like there’s no tomorrow on a salary that is not only laughable but a disgrace. They don’t have rights and even if they had, we make sure they don’t have access to any of those rights’ forms. They cannot seek protection. They suffer from our abuse day in day out. Our media ridicules them or goes on manhunts against their existence because the Lebanese is always right.

But that doesn’t matter, I guess, because Beirut is THE place to visit.