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.