Beg­ging has be­come a ‘busi­ness’

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - Zakariya Muhammed

In the past, beg­ging was lim­ited to peo­ple who could barely sur­vive. It was a ‘shame­ful’ prac­tice, and the only time peo­ple re­sorted to beg­ging was when all means of sur­vival had eluded them, or in some in­stances, were phys­i­cally chal­lenged. Now, beg­ging is a new trend in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion.

In the past, beg­ging was lim­ited to peo­ple who could barely sur­vive. It was a ‘shame­ful’ prac­tice, and the only time peo­ple re­sorted to beg­ging was when all means of sur­vival had eluded them, or in some in­stances, were phys­i­cally chal­lenged. Now, beg­ging is a new trend in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion.

De­pend­ing on the beg­gars, whether they are com­mit­ted to mak­ing a ca­reer out of beg­ging, the av­er­age beg­gar can earn a huge amount of money on the street. The late-night shifts will of course gen­er­ate ex­tra in­come. What is cru­cial in the beg­ging in­dus­try is lo­ca­tion be­cause they don’t want to po­si­tion them­selves in a poor neigh­bor­hood. In­stead, beg­gars re­sort to busi­ness cen­ters in­side the city, Mosques and tourism re­sorts. The sec­ond ma­jor fac­tor is how ‘piti­ful’ and des­per­ate the beg­gars look – do they have holes in their shirts, and dirt on their faces? That would do the trick.

Beg­gars of­ten tell af­fec­tion­ate sto­ries about their lives. Some talk about their ill­nesses, and claim to need surgery, which of course can only be op­er­ated out­side of the coun­try, cost­ing a huge amount of money. For in­stance, re­cently a 35-year-old man in Haj Ibrahim Beriy­aty Mosque cried for help “This is my daugh­ter who is suf­fer­ing from Can­cer. Please Mus­lims… Mus­lims! We need money to take her for surgery. Alms… Alms” he con­tin­ued to plead with the lo­cal Mosque-go­ers. Some peo­ple paid him in char­ity, oth­ers re­fused. In less than 20 min­utes, this man col- lected 34,000 IQD, which is ap­prox­i­mately US $29.

Salih Jalil is one of those who re­fused to give money to the beg­gar. He ex­plained, “I know many beg­gars who claim to be poor, but they are not in re­al­ity. I have seen beg­gars who said their chil­dren are sick, but when they gath­ered a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money, the chil­dren sud­denly be­came health­ier”.

In Er­bil, as soon as a ve­hi­cle stops at a traf­fic light, a child or two will ap­proach the driver try­ing to sell chew­ing gum or clean­ing the ve­hi­cle's wind­shield. It's the same at most of the traf­fic lights in Er­bil, a city with traf­fic lights at al­most ev­ery in­ter­sec­tion. The chil­dren act like beg­gars, as they're in­sis­tent the drivers buy chew­ing gum. The chil­dren, who clean wind­shields with­out the drivers' per­mis­sion swipe the glass once or twice, then ask for money.

"It is very sad for me be­cause I can't pay all th­ese chil­dren; there are a lot of them," said a taxi driver. The taxi driver added that the num­ber of chil­dren is in­creas­ing daily. In the be­gin­ning, only a few traf­fic lights had th­ese chil­dren, but now they're at al­most ev­ery traf­fic light.

Some of them are home­less peo­ple from Syria that ar­rive in Kur­dish cities, beg­ging for alms, and they are usu­ally seen at the Mosques where upon fin­ish­ing their prayers, they start beg­ging. Most of them say they have been at­tacked by Bashar Al-As­sad’s armed men and forced to leave their homes.

Although beg­ging is il­le­gal ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal laws, and the Er­bil Po­lice has taken mea­sures to cur­tain beg­ging – this has not stopped the prac­tice. In fact, they have in­creased through­out Er­bil city.The Chief of Er­bil Po­lice Di­rec­torate, Ab­dulKhaiq Talaat, said “Most of those who beg in our city are ei­ther Syr­i­ans, who we can ar­rest be­cause they are home­less and job­less, or no­mads who con­sider beg­ging as a job”. Talaat also said that po­lice have pre­vi­ously ar­rested many no­mads and sent them to court.

A con­sid­er­able amount of lo­cals and ex­pa­tri­ates have com­plained about the nui­sance of such beg­gars. Some­times the beg­gars fol­low them into shop­ping malls, places of wor­ship, they even knock on the doors of pri­vate houses, beg­ging for alms.

Firas Ah­mad, so­ci­ol­o­gists, said "For ev­ery di­nar that we give to a beg­gar, the more lu­cra­tive we make beg­ging and, com­par­a­tively, the less lu­cra­tive we make work­ing. This is bad be­cause we want peo­ple to work, not beg.

Ah­mad be­lieves work­ing is pro­duc­tive; beg­ging is at best neu­tral and of­ten a bur­den and a nui­sance. Sec­ond, there is no guar­an­tee that the beg­gar who re­ceives the money will spend it in ways that in­creases the qual­ity of his or her life.

There are sev­eral of­fi­cial and pri­vate char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tions that not only help those in need when they ask, but they also reach out to them to spare them any em­bar­rass­ment. How­ever, th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions have their own means to dis­cover and in­ves­ti­gate the cases that are in real need to of­fer them the due as­sis­tance with dig­nity and com­fort.

Some Satel­lite and lo­cal TV chan­nels also have spe­cial pro­grams in which they show the suf­fer­ings of poor fam­i­lies in Kur­dis­tan re­gion and ask peo­ple to give money to im­prove their liv­ing sit­u­a­tions.

A Kur­dish child hides his face while beg­ging in Er­bil city.

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