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Asian Workers Bear the Brunt of Lebanon Bombings


Three anonymous nighttime bomb blasts within one week have put Lebanon on edge. The attacks are widely seen as an attempt to sow fear and as a warning to government opposition groups and their supporters, but it is foreign workers from South Asia who have borne the brunt of the casualties of the most recent bomb attacks.

It's their day off and a dozen local workers have gathered here on the fourth floor of a dilapidated apartment building in the Dikweneh neighborhood of Beirut.

This is an industrial area of factories, car repair shops and warehouses. That's where the men work and live. Up here, they've set up a small place of worship, where they gather during time off.

The men are from the Indian state of Punjab, most have been in Lebanon for years, some have their families with them, others left them behind in India.

Today the talk is of recent events that have them all worried.

Three South Asian workers have been killed and several others injured in the recent spate of bombings in and near Beirut. Late last Saturday an explosion rocked this industrial area of Dikweneh, just around the corner from here. The bomb shattered windows and set fire to several factory buildings.

Sandouk Janahir says he was home with his family watching television when he saw what had happened.

"We are also here that day. I go to my house to eat and watch television," he said. "After one half hour we see it on the television and hear the bomb blast."

Sandouk Janahir works as a tailor. He's been here for over 20 years and has his wife and two of his children here with him.

PACE: Are you afraid and are you going to go home or will you stay here?

WORKER 1: No, I want to stay here.

JANAHIR: We want to stay here.

WORKER 2: No, no problem. Why I go? I cannot go.

PACE: Anybody who wants to go home?

WORKER: Go home, what about money? We can't go.

These men are among the thousands of foreign workers from parts of Asia who've come here to find jobs. They work as night watchmen, janitors and in factories. The women generally work as domestic help. The pay is often meager and living conditions cramped, but it's work and money to send back home.

Some of the foreign workers have said they will probably go home after the recent violence, but if these men are any indication, most will opt to stay and hope the violence subsides.