Yesterday, an Ethiopian Airlines flight servicing Addis Ababa from Beirut crashed shortly after taking off in bad weather, killing 90 people. I don’t have anything to add to this, except that my thoughts are with all those whose loved ones died.
Although we always hear about crashes like this, this particular one feels closer to home, not only because it happened here in Beirut, but also (selfishly) because I’ve taken this particular flight before when traveling to Addis or continuing on to Nairobi.
UPDATE: Miss T mentions the subtext of this crash: the economic situations that push so many Lebanese to go find fortune throughout Africa and so many Ethiopians to endure horrible lives as indentured servants in Lebanon to try to make the lives of their families a little better. This article from The Guardian especially hits home:
Riad Ismael’s 36-year-old nephew Yasser was among those missing. Like so many in this nation of expatriates, Yasser had left Lebanon soon after graduating, having been unable to find a job. After five years working in a Lebanese restaurant in London he moved to Sudan to pursue his speciality – computer engineering – before starting his own business in Angola. The young father had taken time off to fly home to Lebanon via Ethiopia to visit his wife and two children, aged five and two.
“When we find answers to who is responsible for this crash we have to ask another question: why does the young generation of Lebanese have to live in exile?” said Riad Ismael, the mayor of a village near the south Lebanon town of Nabatiyeh.
“Yasser is like all young guys in Lebanon. , His motives were to build a better future and provide for his family. He was far away from his family and always wanted to return home. He came home to give them money and then died. It is a tragedy.”
Many of the Ethiopians killed in the crash were also economic migrants, but in the reverse direction – young women who left homes and families to travel to Lebanon to work as domestic helpers in the homes of wealthy Lebanese.
Many are treated as little more than slaves, human rights activists claim. In many cases servants go unpaid, are confined indoors and made to work long hours seven days a week. Some are beaten and even sometimes raped.
“Why do you Lebanese never treat us good?” screamed one Ethiopian woman as security forces prevented her from entering the governmental hospital in Beirut today to identify a body. “We are human beings like you. God created us. Why don’t I have the right to come in and see my sister?”
Outside the hospital a group of Ethiopian women stood quietly in a corner, waiting for news of friends on the flight – young women like the friend they knew as Warkey, who arrived in Lebanon to work for a family in Nabatiyeh,
“She had worked for two years and her family had not paid her salary once,” said one of Warkey’s friends, who asked not to be named. “She even had to buy her own clothes. So she ran away and I took her in. But she said she missed her parents so much and had to go home. She was only 20.
“We went to the embassy and they did not help. Because she had run away and did not have any papers, she ended up being arrested and put in prison,” she said, her dark brown eyes welling up with tears.
“They let her out of prison on Saturday and drove her to the airport, so she could take that flight.”