Malek Maktabi’s Story of Zainab & Her Sri Lankan Mother Deepa Is A Disgrace To The Lebanese State

I am angry. Nay, angry is an understatement, I am livid. Anger wasn’t the only thing I felt yesterday. I was also deeply ashamed to be a citizen of a country where the story that Malek Maktabi’s show, in a rare instance of journalistic integrity, portrayed not only could happen, but is probably part of a bigger array of stories just waiting to be told.

The story, summarized, is as follows:

In 1991, Deepa Darmasiri was a Sri Lankan working as a housekeeper at a Lebanese household in the South. The husband in the household she was working in, whose name was always bleeped out and never mentioned, one day raped Deepa at knife-point, leading her to become pregnant.

Deepa did not want to get an abortion because she “never could imagine not meeting her child.” So she carried the baby to term. To make his rape legal and to be able to register the baby, that scumbag of a man exercised his religiously given right to polygamy and married Deepa.

Once Deepa gave birth, he took the baby girl whom he named Zainab – Deepa wanted to name her Huda – and got the mother deported back to her country, never to see or hear from her daughter ever again.

The story of a Lebanese daughter searching for her Sri Lankan mother is a heartbreaking reminder of how horrifying Lebanese patriarchy is. What’s worse is that Zainab is not a lone example of the disgusting state that our demented patriarchal laws have led us to.

Deepa is a victim on so many levels. She’s a victim for being a woman living in a country (and a world in the bigger sense) that sees her gender as inferior, both actually and legally. She’s a victim of Lebanese personal status law, placing her as inferior to her husband in all regards, even in the matter of him being able to divorce her as easily as he did, leading her to getting deported. She’s the victim of being from a nationality that we, as a country, deem as lesser. Because, you know, we as Lebanese are the creme de la creme and everyone else be damned.

Side note: Sri Lanka has better infrastructure than this dismal country currently has and will probably have for years to come. They have faster internet, 24/7 electricity, better water coverage and their women are more equal to men. But please, tell me more about how we think they’re inferior because they come work here in jobs we would never partake in, or because they’re black, or maybe because they’re not originally Phoenicians, or because any nationality that is not White and Western is one that we look down to thinking we are so much better.

News flash: we are not. Not even close. Deepa’s story shows how rotten to the core this country is.

Get this: we live in a country where a man was able to rape, impregnate, have the woman carry the child to term, take her baby away, have her deported NEVER to be able to come back again and still roam free.

Why? Because this is Lebanese patriarchy. This is how it works. Men are always superior. Lebanese are superior to non-Lebanese especially if those non-Lebanese don’t have a strong country to be able to defend them, and it’s just disgraceful. How is this man considered a human being, I wouldn’t know. He’s an abomination, pure and simple. Not only is that man still roaming free, never seeing a jail cell in his life for all the disgusting things he’s done, but he’s also probably protected by some politician down South that makes him impenetrable.

The disgraceful thing is that what he did was not illegal according to Lebanese law. He was perfectly within his rights as a man to do what he did to Deepa and to her daughter Zainab.

How horrifying is it that this man overpowered a helpless migrant worker, raped her, violated ALL her rights, her only fault being coming to this country to seek a better future for herself?

How horrifying is it that this man didn’t care in the least about his daughter, about the fact he brought her into this world as a result of raping a helpless woman after holding a knife to her throat?

How horrifying is it that Deepa had no one to run to, no one to help her, that our ministries of social affairs and labor wouldn’t have cared about her plight, about the fact she was violated that way?

Zainab and Deepa’s story is precisely why our laws need to be changed and I hope it provides the much needed catalyst for NGOs dealing with migrant workers to have a louder platform from which to proclaim their very rightful demands.

We cannot and should not be allowed to have an upper hand over workers who come from any country in the world just because they are coming to work here. We cannot and should not be allowed to have our men hold an upper hand over our women or any women wherever they come from, just because they happened to be born with a set of XY chromosomes.

We cannot and should not allow anyone to do what that scumbag did and still be allowed to roam free, unchecked and unpunished. As long as our laws allow them too, some men will do what this creature did, and others have probably done so plenty of times already. How many more Zainbas are out there because our state has enabled the perpetuation of this, because of our patriarchy and our sense that we are better than other “lesser” nationalities? It’s just disgraceful, and shameful.

What’s even more shameful are those who were bothered by this topic being discussed, under the pretext that it’s not New Year’s Eve material. Wake the hell up. This is a reality that is part of this wretched country every single day. You getting sad for a few seconds is upsetting you? You realizing this country’s laws are messed up to say the least is distressing you and ruining your party spirit? Deepa and her daughter Zainab never had any New Year Eves together because of the apathy of people like you.

42 days after she met her daughter, Deepa passed away probably from cancer. She couldn’t be flown to Lebanon to spend the remainder of her days with her daughter because getting a Lebanese visa to a Sri Lankan is near-impossible. This goes back again to our country thinking it’s better than others while our own citizens beg at the door of embassies for visas for other countries to seek out better futures.

I commend Malek Maktabi on his work with Zainab and Deepa’s story, and I sincerely hope this doesn’t stop at it being a NYE special to get viewers worked up. This should be as daily a conversation as possible, to hopefully reach a place where Lebanon’s state doesn’t perpetuate the existence of more Zainabs and more Deepas.

Deepa Darmasiri, rest in peace you beautiful gorgeous human being.

Ignorant Lebanese “Journalism”

When I was about thirteen, the talk of the nation was about satanism. People used to go on televisions to tell us how these people desecrate the Holy Communion, have sex in graveyards and whatnot. And at thirteen, I believed all the stories. Education at school also geared us towards fearing such cults. They instilled fear in us. They warned us about the dangers of the music they use, which might infiltrate our minds with the subtle messages interspersed between their notes. So I never got into any form of metal music – because metal equaled satanism. And that’s what I was told.

Things today are very different, to me at least. I barely watch any Lebanese TV because I believe it’s absolutely pointless to do so and I fail to see any rewarding experience coming out of it, except to get me more exasperated at the state of decadence we’ve reached as a nation.

Joe Maalouf, MTV’s prodigy “journalist”, has found his name synonymous with controversy in recent months. It started with homophobic reporting about homosexuality. Some Lebanese responded. MTV responded back. The responses died. Joe Maalouf stayed… and he’s at it again.

In a November 6th episode, Maalouf went back to the same subject that was being discussed when I was thirteen, almost ten years years ago, to say how all metal bands are cult-worshippers, teaching our children and teenagers the arts of satanism. Here’s a link for the episode if you’re interested.

Absolutely stupid? You bet. But Joe Maalouf isn’t the only one. Every weekly episode of Malek Maktabi’s show: Ahmar bl Khatt el 3arid is a reminder that cheap journalism is popular journalism. Maktabi gets guests that are as taken out of society as you could get and imposes them upon his viewers as fact. His attitude as he presents one ridiculous topic after the other is that of a know-it-all who’s taking himself way too seriously.

The result of both Maalouf and Maktabi’s approaches, which are very similar, is a broad viewership that is taking in what they’re saying as scripture, which is even worse when you know that both TV shows are some of the most watched on their corresponding channels, data that I obtained from a TV private source a few weeks back. Yes, those metal bands are all satanist. Those people from Akkar are all demented. Those women who like to sing are all whores. And the list goes on and on.

The viewer is not to be blamed for the monstrosities committed against him. You can’t just say it’s the fault of the person who has nothing else to do than watch TV for believing what TV station is throwing at them. It’s the fault of TV stations and platforms that allow such content to be broadcast from their airways without vetting it.

No, I’m not talking about censorship. I’m talking about monitoring of quality. Maalouf & Maktabi should not be allowed to present absolutely ridiculous information as facts to viewers and be able to call upon equally unqualified “testimonies” in order to prove a moot point that is not valid in any way. They should not be allowed to tell viewers how “many more unspeakable things happen behind closed doors.” What closed doors are they taking about? What things are they referring to?

The sad thing is it’s not only Maalouf and Maktabi. Ignorant Lebanese journalism goes to political talk shows which rehash the same arguments at people over and over again, most of them unfounded, in the hope that one sticks. Ignorance is also in news reports, such as the HIV in Pepsi incidence recently, which people also believe because, I mean, how could the news be wrong? How could anything that makes it to TV, for that matter, be wrong?

I am not a journalist and I don’t intend to be one. But, as a viewer and possible audience of such TV shows, I know what I’m getting is ridiculous. I know that my TV stations should offer us something more mentally stimulating than the mental vomit they keep hurling at us with a lot of people taking it in. I know that what’s happening on our airwaves daily is not right. And I know that Malek Maktabi, Joe Maalouf and countless other self-proclaimed journalists are a bunch of ignorants whose words should never be taken to more than what they are: utter crap. Maalouf and Maktabi are a disgrace that graces our TV screens in a weekly manner to bestow upon us their eternally craptastic wisdom.

The problem is the collective of the Lebanese society thinks their crap is gold. They think Maalouf and Maktabi and others like them are absolutely right, every single time, and the cycle of willful ignorance of the Lebanese community continues because ignorance is truly bliss and dismissing entire demographics, entire discographies, entire mentalities because of the psychological complexes of a TV anchor is much easier than going on a limb to see that the presumed golden TV we get is crap at its best.