An abused Nigerian domestic worker in Lebanon has been prevented from boarding an evacuation flight after her employer claimed he "owns” her.

The Kafala system, widespread across Lebanon and parts of the Middle East, grants employers a large say over the fate of domestic workers, who have few rights.

On Sunday, 50 trafficked Nigerian women arrived home from Lebanon along with 19 nationals, who had been stranded in the country because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Anti-trafficking activists however, told Middle East Eye that eight women were prevented from boarding the flight including Ariwolo Olamide Temitope, 31, whose bloodied image circulated on social media last month after an altercation with her employer. 

Another woman, who was rescued by Nigerian authorities after being put up for sale on Facebook, has chosen to stay in Lebanon for now.

Temitope told Aljazeera in April that she had been set up by her employer, Mahmoud Zahran, who accused her of stealing a phone while she spoke to her family in Nigeria on 25 April.

After receiving a blow to her mouth, she took a video of herself.

Temitope said that the family turned against her when she refused Zahran's advances shortly after arriving at their home in October 2019.

Zahran’s family has denied the claims but the Lebanese authorities have banned him and his wife, Feyzeh, from hiring domestic workers and launched a criminal investigation into the allegations.

Temitope fled after the assault and contacted the Nigerian Embassy, which arranged for her to leave on the emergency evacuation flight at the weekend.

An image posted on social media shows her at the airport pushing a luggage trolley, wearing a surgical mask and a New York Yankees baseball cap. 

But activists at This is Lebanon, a coalition of former domestic workers in Lebanon that regularly names and shames abusers, said that shortly after the picture was taken, they received a text message with devastating news.

"I was not allowed to enter the plane to Nigeria. They said my madam did not approve me to leave Lebanon."

 

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