Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Beggars are incorporating new methods into their activities after several successful awareness campaigns were directed against them in Riyadh. Cafes and restaurants around the capital have witnessed a large influx of panhandlers who are directly targeting younger Saudis, because they are more likely to fall victim to their devious tactics.
Fawaz Al-Etebie, who frequently visits cafés told Asharq Al-Awsat, "a beggar approached me a few hours ago and told me that he was involved in a car accident, and that he needed to pay the Diyyah (Blood Money). However, I knew if somebody had to pay the Diyyah they would not be free to walk the streets until the matter was resolved. Unfortunately, most of these beggars think we are stupid". When asked about their nationalities, Al-Etebie stated that some were Saudi but many were evidently not, apparent from their attire.
Asharq Al-Awsat came across one of the many panhandlers in a coffee shop north of Riyadh, and questioned him as to the reasons for begging. The man stated that he was not begging and that he was merely asking his fellow Saudis for help. When asked why he needed help, the man said that his father was ill and that he needed help paying for his expensive treatment, which he claims has already caused him much debt. Asharq al-Awsat further questioned whether he had any documentation to prove his claims, to which he simply answered no.
According to anthropologist Anoud Al Khalaf, the targeting of youths by street beggars is a new and profitable endeavor for them, since youths in general are naïve with regard to matters such as these. They usually give beggars between 10 to 15 Saudi Riyals, which is a generous amount considering the overall number of people who give money to the beggars. Al Khalaf also pointed out that there are many institutions in Saudi Arabia that help the needy, and that the general population should be aware of this.
The kingdom”s deputy minister of social affairs Awad Al-Raddadi announced earlier this year that 19,827 male and female beggars of different nationalities including 3,590 Saudis were arrested by the end of 2004. He remarked that the Ministry”s Anti-Begging Department intensifies its efforts during the summer season to combat begging which usually targets tourists.