though there were nine nationalities aboard the Boeing 737 jet which
burst into flames and crashed into the sea minutes after taking off in
a violent thunderstorm on Monday morning, the Lebanese, naturally
enough, only concerned themselves with one.
54 Lebanese, almost
all from the country's predominately Shiite southern region, are
probably dead and the nation's outpouring of grief has been intense.
Minister Saad Hariri declared Monday to be a national day of mourning
for the victims; the education minister closed institutions for two
days as a mark of respect.
The funeral of a southern
businessman, who worked for a food import country in Angola, attracted
international media attention, with veiled women throwing themselves on
Distraught friends and relatives are still thronging
a hospital in southern Beirut, waiting to identify mangled bodies being
dragged from the eastern Mediterranean.
The search for the
plane's black box is continuing, with families of victims waiting
anxiously for clues on what befell flight ET409 in the seconds before
disappearing off radar screens for good.
As with any air
disaster in a post 9/11 world, terrorism has been raised as a possible
cause, with several Lebanese dailies carrying uncorroborated
allegations that the crash was the result of a "deliberate attack."
the cause of the disaster, it has exposed the uncomfortable and often
unuttered truth that many Lebanese are still virulently racist.
migrant domestic workers from Ethiopia were onboard the ill-fated
flight, along with at least seven airline crew members. The pilot was
In the absence of concrete facts, Lebanon's
transport minister suggested that pilot error may have downed the
plane, with the jet having undertaking "a very strange and fast turn"
seconds before crashing.
This was all the information many media
outlets needed. Naharnet, an English-language news site to be read with
a shovelful of salt, carried the offensive headline: "Ethiopian pilot
flew wrong way!"
The complete lack of evidence aside, it is
certain that no such exclamatory tone would have been used if the pilot
The inference here is simple: an Ethiopian pilot
- silly him - ignored the learned Lebanese air traffic controllers (who
have an exemplary record for departure punctuality) and his mad error
killed 90 people.
Such scandalous journalese, however, pales in
comparison to the appalling treatment of friends and relatives of
At Rafik Hariri International Airport,
while wailing Lebanese family members were consoled by round after
round of politicians, offered food and drink and drip fed information
on victims as and when it was received, Ethiopian concerned were
Desperate women, dressed in the scrubs which
often adorn domestic workers, pleaded with authorities for information
only to be shepherded into a separate room from Lebanese mourners.
databases that will be used to identify mangled corpses are only being
compiled from Lebanese blood samples. No Ethiopian has been asked to
participate, even if relatives were on board.
well-respected broadcaster conducted a live piece to camera outside a
hospital with their Beirut correspondent on Monday night.
Ethiopian, wracked with grief, unwittingly wondered into shot only to
be literally hauled out of view by the Lebanese crew. Had she been
Lebanese, it is unthinkable she would have been treated like this.
has been written on the plight of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.
The relatives of one Ethiopian victim said that their daughter was on
the way home to Addis Ababa for good after years of being beaten by
To witness the neglect of friends and relatives left behind in Lebanon will offer Ethiopian families no comfort.
BBC even commissioned a special report on the Lebanese diasporas in
Western Africa. No such article was mooted for the reverse demographic.
It is entirely understandable for news agencies and civilians to take interest in their own nationals during times like this.
to systematically sideline, even vilify Ethiopian victims, many of whom
would have led a pitiful existence in Lebanon in domestic servitude,
exudes exactly the opposite of the mercy relatives of Lebanese victims
are pleading for.
In times of disaster, people let down their
guard. The disaster of flight ET409 showed large parts of Lebanese
society for what it is.
Source: The Huffington Post
army troops inspect the debris of an Ethiopian Boeing 737 that crashed
off the Lebanese coast, south of the capital Beirut.
Grieving relatives arrive at the airport in Beirut for news of loved ones aboard the Ethiopian airliner.
Cross paramedics carry to the body of one of the victims of the
Ethiopian Boeing 737 crash into the mortuary of a government hospital
women, relatives of passengers of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that
crashed in the sea, react upon their arrival at Beirut airport, Lebanon.
Families of Lebanese passengers rushed to the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut to await news of their loved ones.
of the plane and debris were washing ashore in the hours after the
crash, including passenger seats, a fire extinguisher and bottles of