Street vendors cleared from Sana’a
There are many vendor stalls in Yemeni markets. In spite of the difficulties they face, vendors insist on continuing to sell wares in the street since they have no alternative work. They cannot afford to be unemployed; they must earn money to provide for their families.
Qasim Al-Raimi, a street vendor, sells vegetables in Bab Al-Yemen. He has seven children living in his village.
“Twenty years ago, I had to work as a street vendor in Sana’a because of my hard financial situation,” he said. “So far, I’m still doing the same thing, making money to cover my family’s expenses.”
“During those years, I faced arbitrary harassment and violations by municipality employees. I was even imprisoned simply for selling vegetables in the street,” he added.
“I experienced the feeling of being tortured when municipality employees attacked me and took the money I’d spent hours earning. Sometimes they took my goods and threw them into their car to be taken to shops until we paid a bribe to get them back. The goods get mixed with other vendors’ goods and when we get them back we realize that some of it was lost.”
Mohammed Saleh, a teacher in Sana’a, said, “Street vendors are usually young men with high school educations; some of them went to college. They are forced by hard circumstances to resort to this work in order to make money for themselves and their families.”
Saleh is demanding the government establish special places for them instead of harrasing them and removing them from the streets without the offer of a permanent solution.
Mohsien Hussien, a resident whose house is located in an area rife with street vendors, describes the vendors as a chronic headache that prevents him and his family from sleeping.
“I can’t get in and out of my house easily because of them,” he said. “Moreover, I can’t sleep because of the noise they make.”
Adel Al-Sharjabi, a professor of Sociology at Sana’a University, said that in spite of the clearly growing economic activity of street trade, research centers continue to ignore it.
He said no symposia or conferences were held to study the security, economic and social problems of street vendors.
“Since there is no certain law to organize the relation between them, security and municipality supervisors continue to aggravate and chase the street vendors.”
He said unofficial statistics indicate that there are around a quarter of a million street vendors.
Last week, the government launched campaigns in Sana’a to remove vendor stalls from streets because they are spread widely, particularly after last year’s uprisings.
“These campaigns aim to keep the city clean and overcome traffic jams in addition to appeasing residents’ complaints against street vendors,” Hamza Al-Ashwal, director of the Office of Public Works in Sana’a, said.
Al-Ashwal said some street vendors sell unknown goods that don’t conform to standard specifications. They refuse to go to places established by the government, he claimed.
Arafat Al-Otmi, a vendor, said places established by the government are far away, and residents don’t usually go there.
“I can easily sell my goods in streets because residents always pass by.”
Trade shop owners also complain about street vendors. They said they want the government to prevent street vendors from setting up stalls in front of their shop.
Murad Ali, owner of a clothing shop on Khawlan Street, said street vendors threaten the work of business owners because they have to pay rent and taxes, but street vendors don’t; this creates a difference in prices.
Ali said he wants the government to establish special places for vendors and to charge rent and taxes, so they will have to mark their goods at prices similar to those found in established shops.
After campaigns to remove street vendors in the Bab Al-Yemen and Old Sana’a area, street vendors organized a demonstration, marching from Bab Al-Yemen to the Yemeni Cabinet and to the Yemeni Parliament, demanding that the government find suitable solutions for them.
Sultan Al-Faqi, one of the protestors, said, “The government has to find alternative places for street vendors.”
Protesters raised banners condemning what they said were security services violations against them.
Basheer Al-No’man, a street vendor, said that there must be a solution to convince both sides, and this solution lies on the government and the secretary of the capital.