Earlier this week, Beirut-based beach resort Sporting Club sparked controversy online after its racist policy form made the rounds online.
It all started when Sahar Mandour, a woman who has been a regular at the club for years, uploaded a Facebook post calling out its management on a form - targeting migrant domestic workers - they recently handed out to their customers.
The document - which clients are asked to sign - is titled "Helper Dress Policy," and features an image depicting what a domestic worker should be wearing to be allowed into the resort. It also states that those who breach the dress code will be asked to leave the premises without a refund.
In her post, Mandour blasted the resort, calling out its management for being racist towards people of color. She explained that a friend of hers also witnessed an incident when an Indian woman and her daughter were banned from entering Sporting Club.
"They banned an Indian woman and her daughter from going in - they went there to spend a day at the beach with a group of academics that was visiting Lebanon. The woman herself is a lecturer, she just smiled and told her friends: 'It's OK, racism still exists in some countries.' My friend's heart broke for her and he tried to fight Sporting Club's management but they refused to let the woman go inside," she wrote.
"Here we got into race and skin color, not only classism against domestic workers," she added.
Mandour pointed to the fact that the majority of beach resorts in Lebanon implement racist rules that are simply unacceptable.
Sporting club denies the accusations, says it's a misunderstanding
StepFeed reached out to Sporting Club's management to get a clarification on the matter and their spokesperson claimed it is all just a misunderstanding.
"Sporting Club welcomes everyone and we refuse to be accused of discrimination. There have been several incidents where helpers were entering pool areas while wearing regular clothes and that is not acceptable. Their employers bring them to the beach wearing work clothes. This is why we made these forms asking people to make sure everyone coming with them wears proper beach wear. We will not accommodate families who treat their helpers as slaves," the spokesperson told us.
"We never discriminate on our premises but we need to make sure that anyone going in to our pool areas is wearing proper swimming gear," they added.
When asked about the previous racist incident that involved an Indian woman who was allegedly banned from entering Sporting Club, the spokesperson said:
"In regards to that incident, from what I know I believe it isn't true. But if it did happen at the time, I assure you it must've been related to our resort's dress code and nothing other than that. Anyone wearing a bathing suit can access the beach and pool areas here."
However, the online controversy has yet to quiet down
The controversy over the club's circular continues online, bringing forth the pressing issue of widespread discrimination and racism in Lebanon.
Though Sporting Club cleared out the misunderstood document, it still hit the wrong nerve with many, for obvious reasons.
One of them is the fact that tens of resorts in the country are racist and classist, so it's not so difficult for us to believe accusations similar to the ones that went viral online in the past few days. But that's not to say everyone attacked the resort because there were also those who defended it, saying they've never experienced racist incidents there.
People were understandably angered by the form
Others thought there's nothing that can justify it
However, many also came to the resort's defense
A few posted responses they got from the place's management
But many were still not happy with the clarifications
Also, if one resort isn't racist, it doesn't mean this isn't a major problem in Lebanon
In fact, racism is rampant, especially in the country's beach resorts
Many incidents of racism or discrimination have been reported at Lebanese beach resorts.
Last year, the country's Waterland Hotel & Resort caused quite the stir after announcing that women wearing burkinis will only be allowed to access the place on specific days of the week.
Not only do some resorts ban burkinis, but they also ban other types of swimwear apart from traditional bikinis.
In 2017, the owner of a private beach in Lebanon told Sputnik Arabic that he banned the burkini because "the socially accepted clothing for females to swim in public places is a bikini."
In 2016, a young Lebanese-Canadian woman was barred from swimming in a well-known resort in Beirut for wearing a one-piece bathing suit with swimming shorts. Additionally, several resorts do not allow domestic workers to swim in their pools.