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Exclusive - Houthi Rule Turns Sanaa Residents into ‘Beggars’

Exclusive - Houthi Rule Turns Sanaa Residents into ‘Beggars’

Tuesday, 19 March, 2019 - 07:15
Children in Yemen. (AFP)
Taiz - Asharq Al-Awsat

The residents of Yemen’s Sanaa have deplored the state of affairs in their city after years of rule by the Iran-backed Houthi militias, which they said has turned them all into “beggars.”

“Why do you ask about why I stand here? Aren’t we all beggars? You too are a beggar. I beg on the streets, while you beg from humanitarian organizations, which you wait on monthly to give you some money, wheat or oil.”

Touring the streets to plead for some money or food, a beggar spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about his daily “job.”

He said he does not receive any aid from non-governmental organizations offering assistance in the Yemeni capital. He instead accused the local Houthi representative in his neighborhood of stealing his share of aid.

“We are all beggars as long as the Houthis remains in control,” he lamented.

It is with these words that this beggar speaks about the current state of affairs in the city. It wasn’t always so. He used to be a public servant, but after years of not receiving a salary, he has been forced to beg on the streets.

Since 2016, state employees have received no salaries after Houthi militias refused to pay, claiming that the legitimate government, headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi moved the Central Bank to the city of Aden, currently the temporary capital of Yemen.

After touring Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat found that the beggars could be divided into those who see their begging as a daily job, and other who find it demeaning, but a desperate act given the lack of employment and ongoing Houthi injustice.

“There is nothing wrong or shameful about begging. It does not differ from other jobs. It only requires one to abandon his dignity,” another beggar said. “Yes, it is a social shame, but given the lack of jobs, there is no other way to make money and get some food.”

Yemeni social researcher Shaher Saad told Asharq Al-Awsat that the rise in begging, most notably in Sanaa, can be blamed on several factors, most significant of which is practices of successive governments that have impoverished the people.

Even the World Bank has accused the governments of robbing the people, he remarked.

According to the researcher, Yemeni citizens face a high level of unemployment in the capital. “More than 19 million Yemenis live below poverty line,” he said, adding that some new “mafias” emerged in the capital under the slogan of fighting corruption, but did nothing but steal more.

“Salaries do not last more than three days. How can Yemenis survive with no money for years?” Saad said.

A source from the Yemeni Social Affairs and Labor Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat there is no accurate statistics showing the number of beggars in Sanaa.

“The number doubled in the past year, mainly due to poverty, and the confiscation of salaries and aid by the Houthis,” the source said.

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