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Revolution wagon: Lebanon protests a boon for street vendors

BEIRUT: The smells of grilled cheese and cooked corn waft over the protesters in the Lebanese capital — with daily crowds filling the capital’s main squares, the movement has been a boon for street vendors.Ibrahim is a plasterer by trade, but when he saw crowds flocking by the tens of thousands to Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square…

Revolution wagon: Lebanon protests a boon for street vendors

BEIRUT: The smells of grilled cheese and cooked corn waft over the protesters in the Lebanese capital — with daily crowds filling the capital’s main squares, the movement has been a boon for street vendors.Ibrahim is a plasterer by trade, but when he saw crowds flocking by the tens of thousands to Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square to protest against government corruption and incompetence, he knew it was not an opportunity to be missed.One day, he’s selling “kaak,” a round, savory Lebanese bread covered in sesame seeds. The next, it’s corn on the cob or small trays of lupin beans dressed with cumin and lemon juice.“It’s better than being out of work,” the stocky 27-year-old said.Times have been tough for many months, he said, with the country hit by an economic crisis that has not spared the construction sector.“For us, the revolution represents a new livelihood, and at the same time we are protesting with the people,” Ibrahim said.On good days, he earns between $35 and $40 with his food cart.Forced to abandon his education before age 18, he has been taking care of his sick mother since his father passed away.“She has no social security or pension, I spend my life paying for doctors and medicines,” he said.A short distance away, the square resounds to the rallying cries of the protest movement which has rocked Lebanon since October 17: “Revolution! Revolution!” and “the people want the fall of the regime.”A new group of protesters march past and Ibrahim quickly gets back to business, grabbing his cart from the car park where he had hidden it.When the demonstrations swell, police do not bother with street vendors, Ibrahim said.But when rallying points empty out, security forces confiscate vendors’ goods and remind them that their activities are illegal.A little further on, several protesters have gathered around a cart serving punnets of corn and beans that its owner has dubbed the “revolution wagon.”Normally, Emad Hassan Saad plies his business on the corniche, Beirut’s seaside promenade.“We sell more here because there are more people,” the 29-year-old said.He has brought on three friends to help him out. The first peels lemons, the second chops them and the third pulls ears of corn from a pot of boiling water.“The rallies are a job opportunity for these young people, even if it’s only temporary,” Dana Zayyat, 21, said, munching on lupin beans.Her friend Jana Kharzal agrees. “This revolution has allowed young people who are poor to work, those who don’t have the chance to study or to rent a shop.”Youth unemployment is chronic in Lebanon, with more than 30 percent out of work, while almost a third of Lebanon’s population lives in poverty.Some vendors complain of the treatment they receive at the hands of security forces, even at their usual selling spots like the corniche, popular with Sunday strollers.One of their number, who did not want to give his name, said he had had to pay dozens of fines the equivalent of $300, or 20 day’s take.Despite the risks, the manager of a hookah rental service took his chances and set up shop among the protesters.He gets to work in the evenings, when the demonstrations swell and police attention is elsewhere.Fifteen or so of his water pipes are lined up near a concrete wall in a car park in Martyrs’ Square, where his employees are busy serving customers.He’ll leave “when the political class leaves,” he says between draws on a hookah.Not far away, a frail elderly woman offers red roses for sale to passers-by from where she is seated on the ground, despite the late hour.A brown scarf encircles her weathered face and when protesters ask why she is out so late, she answers that she has no choice.“This country pushes the poor into the grave,” she says in a weak voice.

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Middle East News

Britain says war with Iran would strengthen militants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we…

Britain says war with Iran would strengthen militants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we reject and which increases our worries about the situation in Libya”.

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Middle East News

US warns ships in Middle East waterways of possible Iran action

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the…

US warns ships in Middle East waterways of possible Iran action

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the hard-won gains that we secured against Daesh,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday said the US killing of Soleimani was state terrorism, and that Iran would ‘respond proportionately.’“We are concerned that if we see a full-blown war it would be very damaging and actually the terrorists, in particular Daesh, would be the only winners,” the British foreign secretary said.“We’re working with our US partners, our EU partners, that is why I’m travelling out to Brussels today, to make sure we send a very clear and consistent message on the need for de-escalation and to find a diplomatic route though.”

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Arab League reaffirms rejection of foreign interference, calls for Libya solution

CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the…

Arab League reaffirms rejection of foreign interference, calls for Libya solution

CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the four ram-headed sphinxes and an obelisk, currently en route to their new home in Tahrir Square.Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has weighed in to say that similar obelisks are displayed in Western cities, according to a statement late Monday.But Dr. Monica Hanna, a heritage expert, said Egyptian artifacts in cities like London, Paris and New York are themselves endangered by being outdoors.“The sphinxes are made of sandstone, they are part of the dry environment in Luxor, when they would be moved to Tahrir Square with all the pollution, they will deteriorate as a result of the reactions with the carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air,” Hanna told The Associated Press.She and a member of parliament are part of a lawsuit to block the artifacts’ move, filed recently by a local rights group.Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the government “will do everything” to protect the artifacts.Tahrir Square was the epicenter of Egypt’s so-called Arab Spring uprising in 2011. The square also contains the Egyptian Museum.The decision to move the artifacts as part of a larger renovation of Tahrir Square was taken without debate in parliament. The controversy only surfaced after archaeologists objected.Since coming to power in 2013, El-Sisi has touted a number of megaprojects aimed at rebuilding and expanding infrastructure. Those include an expansion of the Suez Canal and a new Egyptian museum near the Giza Pyramids.A centerpiece of the new museum is a towering statue of Ramses II. It once stood in a busy square near Cairo’s main railway station, but was removed in the 1990s due to preservation concerns.Waziri, the antiquities chief, said the four sphinxes are not part of the famed avenue of sphinxes in the city of Luxor. They were among several located behind the first edifice of the temple of Karnak.The obelisk was recently moved to Cairo from the San el-Haggar archaeological site in the Nile Delta, the ministry said.But Hanna, the heritage expert, stressed that the obelisks in Western capitals had been moved during the colonial era. “We really had no say in their shipment.”

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