Arabic Language Blog

Celebrating International Workers’ Day: Happy May Day! Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Arabic Language

Marhaba! On May 1st every year, over 80 countries commemorate (أحياء ذكرى) the struggles of workers (العمّال) around the world since the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago.

International Workers’ Day (يوم العمّال العالمي) or often recognized as Labor Day (عيد العمّال) or May Day, is a national holiday in many Arab countries. States like Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and others consider Labor Day as a public holiday (إجازة عامة).

What do different countries across the globe and in the Arab world celebrate on Labor Day? This day honor (يكرّم) and pays tribute to the various demonstrations and protests unleashed by industrial workers against unfair work practices (ممارسات العمل غير العادلة). More specifically, these workers demonstrated for improving working conditions (ظروف العمل), wage raises (رفع الأجور) and the firm and clear establishment of a maximum working day (يوم عمل) and week. For example, workers struggled for the eight hour day movement or 40 hour week movement. Workers viewed the eight hour day as a balance between 8 hours (ثمانية ساعات) of labor (عمل), 8 hours of recreation (تسلية) and 8 hours of rest (راحة).

Since the late 19th century, workers have been demanding for better work conditions and the overwhelming majority of these demonstrations have been by suppressed by brutal force (قوة وحشية). Nevertheless, in many countries around the world, workers in various industries have been able to surmount many of the hardships that their forerunners faced during the late 19th and which some still face to this very day.

Which political parties (الأحزاب السياسية) normally celebrate May Day around the world? In many countries, the working classes strive to commemorate Labor Day every year by shedding light on the long history of struggles. More specifically, various socialist (اشتراكية), anarchist and communist (شيوعية) groups are extremely active in orchestrating various demonstrations. In addition to left leaning political parties, many labor unions (النقابات العمالية) join in these protests as a sign of solidarity (تضامن) with workers’ rights (حقوق العمال).

For example, this year in Lebanon hundreds of foreign domestic workers (عمال المنازل الأجانب) marked May Day with a march to demand an end to the sponsorship system (نظام الكفالة). This sponsorship system largely affects the freedom and liberty of foreign workers and forces them into a perpetual ‘master/slave relationship.

Labor Day is an honorable celebration of the constant struggles that workers across the centuries have fought to attain (إكتساب) equal, fair and just rights. These struggles encompass the ones carried out by women in different countries to achieve equality with men at the workplace. While there is a still a long way to go, one cannot deny that much progress has been achieved. As a matter fact, we are all workers in our own ways, even if we sometimes fail to admit it. Look at your mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, teacher, boss, colleague or any individual in your life, and spend some time to acknowledge (عبّر عن شكرك لهم) their hard work and labor.

As a member of the workforce, I salute the noble history of workers in the past, the present and those to come in the future. Your struggles at the turn of the 19th century are the reason why in most workplaces we have the eight hour day. Can you imagine our current world without the various contributions and efforts of workers across the globe?

Happy Workers’ Day (يوم عمال سعيد)! Happy May Day!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts.

Have a nice day!

نهاركم سعيد

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About the Author: jesa

Salam everyone! Born as an American to two originally Arab parents, I have been raised and have spent most of my life in Beirut, Lebanon. I have lived my good times and my bad times in Beirut. I was but a young child when I had to learn to share my toys and food with others as we hid from bombs and fighting during the Lebanese Civil War. I feel my connection to Arabic as both a language and culture is severing and so it is with you, my readers and fellow Arabic lovers, and through you that I wish to reestablish this connection by creating one for you.


  1. Katusa:

    Very nice article.. Thank you very much for it.

    • jesa:

      @Katusa Salam Katusa! I am glad you enjoyed it. Have a good day!