LEBANON: MUSLIM ‘apartheid’ policies forbid blacks from entering swimming pools

“According some pool owners, Lebanese clients would be disgusted to swim in a pool next to a black person.”

OBSERVERS.france.24We decided to film this with a candid camera after receiving various complaints about the treatment of coloured people in private swimming pools. A candid camera video shot by a Lebanese anti-racism association shows that  coloured people aren’t permitted in several of the city’s private pools.

On July 12, two activists from the Lebanese environmental, cultural, and social activist organisation IndyAct showed up at the gate of a private pool accompanied by a female volunteer from Madagascar and a camera hidden in a bag. The employee there asked the two men who the person accompanying them was; when they responded that she was their maid, he refused to let her in.

More than 200,000 foreign workers, most of whom come from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Ethiopia, are employed as servants in Lebanese homes. According to Human Rights Watch, they are frequent victims of abuse and racial discrimination.

“People of colour are also barred from accessing many nightclubs” These racist, discriminatory practices don’t only concern swimming pools. People of colour are also barred from accessing many nightclubs. We have had reports of several incidents between club bouncers and black tourists from Europe or the United States.

NOW LEBANON Imagine you’re a domestic worker who, after six days of working full-time, decided to head to the beach for a well-deserved day in the sun. You purchase a ticket to enter,  find the perfect spot, but then, right as you’re about to jump in the pool, the resort manager approaches and tells you to stay out of the water because “people are not used to the sight of workers swimming.”

Such discrimination is the rule rather than exception at beach resorts in Lebanon. African and Asian domestic workers are usually allowed into beaches only when accompanied by their employer, and even then they are denied access to facilities.

According to the watchdog organization Human Rights Watch, 17 private beaches (out of a nation-wide total of 27) do not allow African and Asian domestic workers into swimming pools.

A number of resorts claimed to offer “designated areas” where workers can wait while their employers relax at the beach. One manager at a private beach said workers were not allowed as guests because, according to the resort’s rules, “maids come in for free.” A free or discounted entry may encourage families with children who want to go to the beach and bring their maids for help, but don’t want to pay for an additional ticket.

In at least one resort Asian and African workers are allowed to swim in the sea but not in the pool, because “not all people like maids to swim with them in the water.” At another, they are not even allowed to wear bathing suits, according to HRW.

Given how dire conditions are for many foreign domestic workers in Lebanon – employers often restrict their movement, give them no time off and pay them next to nothing – going to beach is often the least of their concerns.

Lebanese labor law does not cover the basic rights of these workers, let alone their right to enjoy leisure activities.  To make matters worse, there is no anti-discrimination law in Lebanon. The Lebanese constitution refers to discrimination under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but there is no separate law to counter discriminatory practices.

“We are aiming to expose this discrimination by publicizing it and getting people to talk about it,” said Nadim Houry, HRW’s Beirut director. “We need to start facing racism. It is not unique to Lebanon, but we haven’t started tackling the problem yet. Many unacceptable things are tolerated and embraced here.”