Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Damascus Trapped in Poverty amid Rise in Number of War Profiteers | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Local resident Israa holds her sister Boutol as they make their way through rubble of damaged buildings in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus. Reuters photo

Damascus- “I swear I am not a beggar,” a woman in her 60s said as tears filled her eyes.

Standing next to a shop in the Salihiyah district of Damascus, she continued: “I am looking for a job. Do you need a cook for your restaurant, or a woman to wash dishes?”

This woman is not the only person standing in the streets of Damascus, now packed with all kinds of beggars: elderly men, women and children.

Those people display their handicaps on the sidewalks, or they lower their head above paper boxes suspended over their necks to explain in a large handwriting their dire situation due to the displacement. Also, young women are seen carrying babies in one hand and selling tissue papers on the other, in addition to displaced children jumping around the cars at the traffic lights and begging for money while trying to clean your car glass.

Still, it is difficult to differentiate between people in need, the professional beggars or those looking for jobs. Poverty seems a general fact, touching the majority of Syrians and transforming middle-class citizens into poor.

As for the already poor people, they are now under the line of poverty, living homeless and with no family.

But, the dire scene comes with an irony: The emergence of a “newly rich” class including the regime’s “shabiha” who parade in their luxury cars and next to their good-looking girlfriends, on whom they spend large amounts of money in beauty clinics, restaurants and nightclubs.

A restaurant owner in Damascus said that the majority of those “shabiha” have volunteered in the ranks of the regime’s militias and have collected their fortunes from smuggling goods and drugs.

“They spend at least $500 a night when they dine,” he said, while a four-member family usually requires an average of $400 per month for a meat-free meal.