Racism at Beirut International Airport

Check out this racism incident that a guy called Abed Shaheen has witnessed at Beirut International Airport yesterday and shared on Facebook.

Racism at Beirut Airport! My personal hands-on experience.

Yesterday on the 6th of October I was at gate 11 with a friend of mine waiting to board the Air Arabia flight at 20:25.

While waiting to board there was a group of foreign workers sitting with the rest of the passengers waiting for their turn. They were behaving normally as any other group of passengers would. Then sadly, the lady (looking at her uniform she apparently works for MEA Ground Services and not Air Arabia) at the gate announced on loud speaker (over the whole system covering the airport) the following: “Filipino people stop talking”; then she started giggling about it with the macho gentleman who was with her at the gate. They continued their racist behavior by announcing again “Filipino Nepal people talking not allowed here” and on and on.

Shocked, I obviously became furious and approached them and explained that this racist and discriminatory behavior is not acceptable, impolite and does not at the least reflect what employees at Beirut Airport should stand for (not to imply it’s acceptance in any other situation of course).

This unfortunately sounded like a joke to them and they went on to say “we do whatever we want and we don’t care about what you are saying”, then “management doesn’t even want this kind of people on the flight” and “even if you complain this will be thrown away and we dare you to do anything about it”. When I asked her “how would you feel if you ever wanted to travel to Europe and while queuing for your visa they told you the same thing?”, she replied “these people are different”; The macho gentleman seeing that his female friend, whom he was trying so hard to impress with his imitating giggles, was cornered with her twisted racist logic even went further to ask me to back off the counter and threatening to make a problem and to void my ticket!!

When I asked for the complaint form they answered (While still laughing of course) “take it from the flight attendants and good luck sitting next to such people on the flight” I did file an official complaint with Air Arabia and their staff was very helpful and promised to reach the message out to their management. However Air Arabia is paying MEAG for such services and they need to use their power to do greater efforts too to ensure that the people behind this are held accountable. I also sent an email today to Mr. Richard Mujais from MEAG, explaining what happened and asked him to further discuss this with me and to show us that these employees were held accountable for such racist behavior.

Until then, and as a friend suggested that they also need to be exposed please help me exposing such intolerable behavior…

What a shame…

Update:

MEA posted the following response on their Facebook page yesterday:

To our loyal customers and fans,

We are aware of the purported incident that took place on the 6th October 2012 at Beirut International Airport, and appreciate your patience while a full investigation by MEA is underway. Please rest assured that MEAs policy is not to tolerate discriminatory or racist behavior in any form from our employees, and that appropriate measures will be taken once the facts of the incident are brought to light.

Yours sincerely,
The MEA Team

And the story made it to BBC Arabic!

Update:

MEA issued a second statement today announcing that severe disciplinary actions have been taken against the involved staff in this incident.

To our loyal fans and customers,

Having investigated the issue that occurred on the 6th October, 2012 at Rafik Hariri Intl. Airport – Beirut, which involved misbehavior by a MEAG (subsidiary of MEA) passenger service agent, we would like to issue the following statement.

This type of behavior represents an isolated case, and is 100% against MEA’s policy.

It does not fit within MEA’s culture, and furthermore goes contrary to our training procedures.

Severe disciplinary action has been taken against the staff concerned.

Kindly rest assured that our goal is to attain the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

Yours sincerely,

The MEA Team

It was mentioned in an article by the Associated Press that the woman was fired and a disciplinary action was being considered against her male colleague.

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34 Responses to Racism at Beirut International Airport

  1. Aczay October 8, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    I’m a Lebanese in Australia. some ignorant people in Australia would rank is Lebanese as even lower rank than what the ignorants viewed the Filipinos as. No wonder Lebanon is ravaged by war. Alla ghadib 3a el sha3b yalli ma byi stahlou the paradise given to them

  2. khalil Jeric October 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I am a Filipino professional working here in Saudi Arabia and my closest friend is a Lebanese.

    My Lebanese friend actually told me about this issue and looked for it on line and I am appauled by what this people did.

    I find what happened so insulting and definitely racist and a form of bigotry.

    Why? they think we Filipinos are low lifes and stupid people? That we are from the jungles and we are iliterate? Well, FYI! 90% of Filipinos have College Degrees. Even Filipino maids in Lebanon have College degrees.
    I for one have a Masters degree and definitely will pursue my Doctorate degree. My country is the no. 1 country in Business English in the world by a survey, We have overtaken India as the no.1 BPO country in the world. We have the best Island in the world which is BORACAY,we are very warm to visitors, friendly and always smiles at people. We are the first Republic in Asia. And above all God fearing people.

    I find that so degrading and uncalled for. Please tell me the names of this bigots and I will do something.

    • Julian Cassia October 9, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

      Please encourage more of your Filipino friends to voice themselves! I am enraged by my country’s behaviour with regards to this. It is foul, and I wish I could more often hear what you think of this situation. It is important that you voice yourselves so that the uneducated average idiot in Lebanon begins to see more clearly that you are more than just the “help,” but human beings, with a panorama of human experiences and emotions. What more, I am pretty sure a good lot of them don’t quite realize how often educated you are (ah, the irony!) and that your displacement in the middle east has little to do with intelligence, but pure economics!

      I commend you for speaking your mind, and I really hope you continue, please, inspire others to as well, because this facet of us Lebanese people is outrageous and it is important that we hear you. If you need to do it in an anonymous way (let’s face it, sometimes anonymity is all a person can really work with safely.), then do so this way. Please. You are quite simply a demographic in Lebanon, and I would say a pretty important one. What is the population number of Filipinos that live in Lebanon?!? You should be made to feel welcome and you should feel comfortable. As a civilized species, we should be able to offer this to each other, it’s a basic human right, a basic code of ethics!

      To those claiming that the blame shouldn’t be put on MEA, and that this might be an isolated incident; in many other CIVILIZED countries, legal action could be taken against MEA, and as such, they would at the base, be a lot more vigilant about how their employees conduct themselves. Lebanon touts itself as being so progressive, but, it really does not appear as such when these disgusting and barbaric ways are on display in such a callous way!! Lebanon; you have a heart, but you act like a pig a lot of the time!

  3. Tarek Atallah Min libnen October 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    This is a disease that is spread everywhere in Lebanon…Most of the Lebanese people believe that they r very special and unique while in reality they are losers who are dragging the country backwards…w3ou ba2a plsssss. Il nes 3ambitbazze2 3alaykon w into mfakkrin il dineh 3ambitshatteh…

  4. sandra October 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Send MEA e-mails letting them know that this behavior is unacceptable and give them a piece of your mind! I have complained to the GM of Ground Services, HR, and Personnel and will continue to send e-mails as frequently as possible until action is taken. Please do the same or sign the petition:

    http://www.mea.com.lb/English/Corporate/DirectoryHeadquarters/Pages/MEA.aspx

    and
    http://www.change.org/petitions/lebanese-citizens-mea-to-appologize-publicly-for-thier-staff-behavior#share

  5. Nancy October 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Peuple de merde

  6. Iman October 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Hi,

    I took an MEA flight from BEY to LHR a month ago. There was a lot of chaos at the check-in, passengers were treated with disrespect, and I was given contradicting information on where I should check-in (I had checked in online so all I needed to do was to drop off my luggage – was told by an MEA employee to stand with the rest of the passengers in the regular check-in queue, mind you that queue had passengers to four different destinations, then was told by another to drop my luggage at the business class counter), when I informed the second employee – who told me to take my bags to the business class counter – that there were no signs to tell people where to drop their luggage his exact words were “leish 3am tne22i? iza mesh 3ajbek khallekib haida l saff”, which is rude to say the least. During the flight, the cabin crew were very polite and understanding, about 20 of us signed a complaint letter and afterwards I wrote my own complaint letter (emailed it to the email specified for complaints on the MEA website as well as the email specified for the UK manager). I have not received even an acknowledgment of either complaints.
    I have decided to never travel with MEA again, if they can’t train their employees to behave in a courteous and professional manner, then they will be losing our custom. Of the 20 of us who signed, 15 said they will never travel with MEA again.
    I highly doubt things will change anyway, but I believe I did my part in filing both complaints – though they were ignored – and in deciding I’d rather take my custom to some other airline.

    • Ramzi Najjar October 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

      I worked for MEA for over 40 years and never heard of such an incident. The two staff members acted on their own and I hope no one is suggesting that MEA instructs them to behave like that or even condones such behaviour. The commentary I’m reading here seems to put the blame squarely on MEA so someone tell me how that works.

      • Iman October 9, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

        Hi Ramzi,

        I did not suggest that MEA instructs its staff to behave in a rude manner or to give out conflicting or misleading information. I relayed the experience I had focusing on the fact that I did file two complaints with not even an acknowledgement that any was received, let alone being assured that someone would be looking into the matter or even an apology or compensation for my inconvenience. If you would like, I can forward the email I sent to the addresses specified for complaints and the UK manager. Besides, even if MEA does not instruct its employees to behave in such a manner, the least any respectable company can do is address complaints promptly – not just ignore them. In case you missed it, I did say that the cabin crew were very polite and understanding, something that did a lot to diffuse the overall anger of many passengers towards the way we were treated in the airport. For that I am grateful, however, it does not erase the fact that we were treated with disrespect, were giving misleading and contradicting information, and our complaints were ignored.

  7. Sisi October 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Thanks, I will be flying to Lebanon shortly and will not be flying this airline because I don’t think they responded in a speedy and proper manner to these complaints. A word of advice to people calling the airline to lodge complaints: I have noticed that some Lebanese are less likely to be moved by the accusation of racism but more likely to react if you compare their professionalism to that of white people. So basically if you tell them they’re racist they laugh at you like you are dumb one but if you tell them that white people are more professional then they feel like shame and react. Sad.

  8. Roger October 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Lebanon ranks at the bottom (and the Phillippines ranks in the middle)
    http://www.doyouneedvisa.com/ranking/
    3a shou sheyfin 7alon?

    No matter how you quantify it, there’s nothing to be proud of about “being Lebanese” as a nationality, there are too many bad apples. We’re a racist country, let’s face it and stop pretending otherwise.

  9. Mohammad Mrowweh October 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Lebanese are the most racist people on earth with the least to be proud of. Most other racists usually have a dignified country that functions well and thus they at least have something to look down on others with (as idiotic as it is) but lebanese are nothing but a secterian hatefilled people with no order nor progress in their country, just constant hate against eachother and against non-lebanese. Lebanon was not even meant to be a state of its own and wouldnt have become one had it not been for the french colonialists who wanted to create a christian state (which obviously failed) for the syrian maronites and christian minority.

  10. Munir October 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Besides bad service on the flights , now we are having racists and bigots at the check in counters , perhaps the civil aviation authorities and the minister concerned should not renew the MEA exclusive licence to operate in Lebanon. The concerned employees should at least be summarily dismissed , and taken to court.

  11. karim October 8, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    I find this story difficult to digest. Not in my 30 yrs flying in and out of Lebanon did I witness or face any lack of respect. Isolated incidents do occur and life is not all rosy but we try to focus on the positive things. I think the MEA staff are very polite and professional and I don’t see how an employee can announce such statements on the PA. I will give the benefit of the doubt to prove otherwise. In any case an investigation should be launched to seek the truth. What about those Filipinos you talk about? Were they offended or is it just you who heard all this?

    • Ramzi Najjar October 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

      What does it matter if the Filipinos heard it or not. If you are insulting an entire population by your behaviour then you are a bigoted racist, whether they hear you or not.

  12. Annie October 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Horrendous. And I had thought of switching from Syrian airlines to MEA. There must be other airlines. Bravo and thank you Anissa for protesting. Silence means …

  13. None October 9, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    the seperate waiting area is actually a courtesy so foreigners dont have to sit in their grease.

  14. Alijan October 9, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    The unfortunate reality of the situation is that people from the Phillipines, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and other countries who’s nationals work in these kind of positions do not hold any real power, and in some case even their respective countries embassies are indifferent to their plight. In some cases I have even read of their embassy personnel having the gall to ask for bribes to have their complaints heard.

    I cannot express myself about how I truly feel about this without using and sharing non profane yet insensitive and offensive wishes so I won’t. See you all on judgement day, and thank God for being the most merciful.

  15. Daouk, Walid October 9, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    Hi to all,

    I’m a Lebanese working in China since 2004 and I left my country with no hope that people will change their attitudes and behaviour.

    I travelled all around China into all the 31 provinces and all the time I saw much more knowledgebal people from us the Lebanese. Being in Nepal for many times, I found the people that I communicated with them are highly educated and they respect highly the foreigners and this in their culture. But, if their country is poor and the government are doing all her best to develop the country, and it needs quite a while.

    Finally, Dear Abed, those MEA ground attendances are not real and true Lebanese they are uneducated, close minded and dum.

    Good luck Abed with your complains, and for sure you’ll get the support from us.

    Regards.
    Walid

  16. andy October 9, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    That’s simply barbaric..some people got stuck on 16th century…Maybe some people will just laught at this and say it’s forgivable because they are just cabin crews, but it will be racist to say that as well..hehe

  17. Sami Shak October 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Hi All,

    Well living in Dubai and Doha, I have indeed experienced MANY racist Lebanese…but I was shocked at this story, espescially as it happened in the airport!!! I do not understand why Lebanese are so pround of being Lebanese and constantly talk about their country – like it is the best country in the world ”a7la balad fil Duniya” They have no right to treat people like this, especially when they are no better at all…. I am absolutely disgusted with them and shame on that country as a whole….from doing my own research…- racisim is the norm there and is well accepted in society…they regard people who are not racist as ”weird”!!!! Back in May this year, there was an article written in the BMI inflight magazine, which was a brief account of racism in Lebanon, and it actually highlighted an incident that took place on MEA flight where a Lebanese passenger refused to sit on his allotted seat due to the colour of the felllow passenger sitting beside to him. The article never mentioned what happened afterwards…but I was utterly disgusted by this and also sadden that people like this exist. To be fair, the Lebanese mentality does not just exist in Lebanon…I have seen how Lebanese treat people in Dubai and Doha and it is horrible…and sad but true…THERE ARE MORE CRUEL, NASTY AND EVIL LEBANESE than actual good ones….I have never met a Lebanese that I would regard as decent till today…although I deal with them almost every day…. :@

    • george behlock October 11, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

      mr shak: I don’t know who is behind u to let u judje the LEBANESE people as a whole……..what r u? who r u? to judje others………if u have a complex of inferiority………seek 4 treatment…….if u r “disgusted” as u say…..simply don’t come 2 LEBANON…….I’M LEBANESE & PROUD TO BE…..in LEBANON……..we have all nationalities…….& religions……u r the only one who suffers from racism…..it’s ur problem…..as for the LEBANESE airport…….It’s a matter of organization to facilitate different papers………documents…….etc….to save time……..to avoid overcrowding……..not to exerce racism……..I’ve seen this in different administrations,,,,,,,,,,in FRANCE……..a sector for strangers – algerians…..morocco….africans……asians….etc……- & a sector for FRENCH people ………in purpose of organisation ……is this racism?….
      What a pity……….

  18. oogs October 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Well… if you worked hard at developing your own country, you wouldn’t need to go to volatile insular regions like the middle east to find work.

  19. Markis October 9, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    hi,

    I stopped from 1992 to be a costumer by MEA, for many reasons. its not a wonder that the staff of MEA and the Airport of Beirut treat the passengers as low class, they look to us as we enemies, and will take something from them.
    Shame !

  20. Siham October 9, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    أخ عبد
    أهنئك على نبلك وكرم أخلاقك التي يتميز بها الشاب اللبناني المثقف. لبنان بحاجة الطى أمثالك.. فما حدث معك هو شيء مرفوض وخاصة في عصرنا حيث أن العالم كله اصبح قرية صغيرة، والبشر هم أولاد الله إلى أي بلد انتموا، ويبدو أن هذه الموظفة تفتقر إلى الكثير من المعايير الحس الإنساني، وللأسف عندها يصبح غرائزي …!! نشد على يدك أن تصر على محاسبة هؤلاء في الإعلام وان لا تكون قضية كغيرها تسوى داخليا . هنيئا للبنان بأمثالك.
    We strongly support you Abd and would like to see an outcome if the MEA investigation is published in the media.. In order that such unacceptable behaviour happens again. No race is superior to any other – I am Lebanese, and recognise this – it’s time everyone else did.
    Will be following up this case.

  21. Amal Khatib October 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    my family and I fly a lot with MEA mainly. Generally it is good and never had an incident . We even witnessed one incident where one of the passenger ( a man) was really impolite and trying to flirt with the hostess what made the flight attendant come to him but that man was really rude to the extent that the captain himself came and warned him of not being accepted on board of MEA. Nevertheless, some hostesses and stewards are more polite and helpful than others which is normal as human beings are different.
    As for the fact of racism, YES most of the Lebanese people are racist and that’s a shame. We have many foreigner friends that had been treated with lack of respect in many places like restaurants, hotels, and beach resorts.

    We are even racist towards each others and we don’t accept each other’s differences. A friend was not allowed to sit on a chair next to her kids who were swimming in the pool just because she had a veil!! A maid from philippine was not allowed to sit with the baby she was taking care of in the pool because ” as they said” she might not be clean, although the children pool was full of dirt .
    But not only lebanese are Racist but in every country we can meet people who are racist in one way or another and that’s really a shame.

  22. Xsever October 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    The BBC Arabia TV Host is rude too. She doesn’t let anyone talk.

    If you are in that much of a rush, do not host people at all and just say what you want to say.

    Very rude cutting people off!

  23. george behlock October 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    I don’t see any racism in beirut airport………..all the matter a question of organisation to avoid over crowding ………..& time loss…………..I’ve seen this in france……………..branch for algerian…….morocan people…….african.etc….& french ……….this isn’t racism………this reflects bad political intentions from some people

    • David Khouri October 25, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

      Mr. Behlock:
      I just have to wonder if you live in the 21st century or what! I know that most people have some kind of prjudices and imperfections, but to blatantly insult and inflict psychological pain on other God-created creatures is inhumane. We may not be fond of a group or race of people, but no one has the right to impede others in their quest for happiness. The MEA emloyees who are responsible for that ugly incident at Beirut International Airport must be be banned forever from working at the airport. They probably make great drug dealers or prostitutes.
      By the way, two Philpinos saved my life by donating the blood that I needed for an emergency surgery. Lebanese from Houston, Texas.

  24. adi October 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    عبد شاهين تكلم في برنامج انت حر عن موظفي مطار بيروت كيف يعاملون الاجانب بعنصرية فسأله جو معلوف هل هناك مجموعات اخرى كانت تتحدث بصوت عال غير الفيليبينيات ؟ اجاب عبد شاهين كان هناك اصوات اولاد تفوق اصواتهم وانني اكره صوت الاولاد
    سوألي لكم : اليس كرهه لصوت الاولاد نوع من انواع العنصرية؟
    الا يحق للاولاد اللعب والفرح
    من يحارب العنصرية بالعنصرية لا يربح
    ان مجتمعنا مبني على العنصرية

  25. David Khouri October 25, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    I was born and raised in Lebanon. I have stopped traveling on the MEA since 1982. I am sometimes ashamed to call myself Lebanese. When the Lebanese are in Lebanon they act like they are the most superior people in the world. Here in the USA, they are thieves, untrustworthy and sneaky. Good luck for all the racists in Lebanon. Your poison is going to kill you. I apologize to the 5% good and honest Lebanese.

  26. imad October 25, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    The problem is that a large percentage of Lebanese suffer from personality disorders. All the ANTARS that we have suffer from an inferiority complex which at times can be very severe. Other Lebanese suffer from narcissism. This is why they try to impress others with nothing.
    Lebanese people discriminate against each other for no reason at all. Christiansvs. Muslims, Shiites vs. Sunnis, Orthodox vs. Catholics, and even they go as far to classify each other as brown vs. whitish. I nominate ABED SHAHEEN for the Nobel Prize and the Presidency of Lebanon. ABED is my hero. We need more heroes to change the population of sheep that we have in Lebanon. Lebanese in Houston, Texas

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