Tears, anger as Lebanese man given hero’s farewell

Lebanon’s Akkar governorate, above, where Hussein Fsheikh’s family lives is also host to refugee settlements. (AFP file photo)
Updated 17 August 2019
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Tears, anger as Lebanese man given hero’s farewell

BEIRUT: A young Lebanese man who drowned after rescuing two friends from a flooded river in Guinea, West Africa, was given a hero’s funeral on Friday after his body was returned to his hometown in northern Lebanon.

Hussein Fsheikh, who moved to Guinea several years ago for work, drowned on the first day of Eid Al-Adha after saving a young couple who had been washed away by floodwaters in the Konkoure River.

Fsheikh, who was in his 20s, was buried in his hometown of Btermaz in Danniyeh,  northern Lebanon, after his body arrived at dawn from Guinea.

Tearful countrymen paid tribute to Fsheikh’s courage and the “Hussein Fsheikh” hashtag was the most trending in Lebanon on Friday.

Fsheikh’s village was shocked by his death. His last post on Facebook before his drowning read: “On the Day of Arafat, let us forgive each other and open a new page. I swear by God that this is the best occasion to forgive and to rethink life in all its details. Do not forget to pray for us.”

The tragic death of the young Lebanese, who worked in Guinea to support his family in Akkar, one of Lebanon’s poorest regions, sparked protests against “the impotent Lebanese political elite which is forcing young Lebanese to emigrate.”

After several parliamentarians in the region mourned Fsheikh’s death on Twitter, young activists condemned what they described as an act of political propaganda.

“We are used to thinking that the hero does not die in the end, but Hussein proved the opposite. He went abroad in search of a decent living and a better future,” Rayyan tweeted.

According to Ziad Itani, an artist, “It is a clear example of our youth who have been abandoned by the political authority and falsely called expatriates, as if immigration was a hobby.” 

He said: “Hussein is a young Lebanese who died away from his country. They praised him for his qualities, and we bid farewell to him as we bid farewell to many of our dreams.”

Activist Joseph Tawk said: “The hypocritical politicians rushing to social media to express sadness about your departure. Where were all these people before you traveled? Where was their patriotism and humanity as you were leaving your country in search of a decent living that you were unable to find in your own country?”

Tawk blamed Fsheikh’s death on “a corrupt political class that leaves no jobs except for their loyal people, and makes no effort to develop the industry, agriculture, trade or institutions in order to save Lebanese young women and men from need and hunger.

“It is a political elite that is short-sighted, and blinded by its sectarianism and militia mindset,” he said.


Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

Updated 19 September 2019

Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

PARIS: Qatar is not fulfilling all its promises to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said Thursday.
In a report entitled "All Work, No Pay", the rights group said: "Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers."
The report came as French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani were due to meet in Paris on Thursday.
Sheikh Tamim also attended Wednesday's high-profile clash between Paris Saint-Germain -- owned by Qatar's state-owned investment fund -- and Real Madrid.
Doha has made efforts since being named World Cup hosts to improve the conditions of the migrant workers who make up a majority of the Gulf emirate's population.
In November 2017, a temporary $200 monthly minimum wage was introduced for most categories of workers with a permanent level expected to be set before the end of the year.
Exit visas granted at the discretion of employers, required by some workers to leave the country, should be entirely scrapped by the end of 2019 according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
But Amnesty reported challenges faced by hundreds of workers at three construction and cleaning companies in Qatar who went unpaid for months.
"Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life; instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty's deputy director of global issues.
After coming under fire over the treatment of migrant workers, Qatar agreed with the ILO in 2017 to undertake labour reforms, including establishing new dispute resolution committees.
"We are urging the Qatari authorities to fully deliver what has been promised and end the shameful reality of labour exploitation," Cockburn said.
Amnesty cited the case of a Kenyan employee of United Cleaning who said he had to rummage for food in garbage bins after receiving no salary for five months.
The man said he had worked for two years and five months for the company without taking any holidays and was owed "a lot of money".
The companies all cited financial difficulties for the non-payment of wages, according to the report.
A Qatar government spokesman said the country had "made substantial progress on labour reforms".
"We continue to work with NGOs, including the ILO, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective," he said in a statement.
"Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively. We have said, from the outset that this would take time, resources and commitment."