Gaza hardship brings new season for second-hand clothes

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Second-hand clothes markets are widespread in all cities of the Gaza Strip.
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Second-hand clothes markets are widespread in all cities of the Gaza Strip.
Updated 12 October 2018

Gaza hardship brings new season for second-hand clothes

  • Economic recession and the Israeli blockade mean many ‘al-bala’ markets are thriving
  • Clothes markets — known as “aswaq al-bala” — are widespread in all cities of the Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY: Mohammed Al-Hamaydeh is sorting through a large pile of clothes for something that suits him in Firas, a second-hand market in Gaza City.

Such clothes markets — known as “aswaq al-bala” — are widespread in all cities of the Gaza Strip, which is populated by a majority of the refugees, but are more popular in territory’s largest city. 

Al-Hamaydeh is one of many customers who have turned up at Firas market, which dates back to the period of Egyptian rule, in recent years. 

A severe economic recession, compounded by a 12-year Israeli blockade, has left many Gaza residents increasingly dependent on aid from local or international charities. 

The economic situation has contributed to a growing acceptance of wearing used clothes, journalist Hamed Jad told Arab News.

Take Al-Hamaydeh’s family. The 21-year-old university student’s father can only provide the basic requirements for him and his six siblings. Along with his fellow students, Al-Hamaydeh found refuge in Firas market, which is meeting their urgent need for clothing.

The Al-Hamaydeh family’s economic situation has worsened in the last year because of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) cuts to employee salaries in Gaza. “After the PA cuts and the bank loan instalment, there is nothing left of my father’s salary to eat and drink,” Al-Hamaydeh told Arab News.

After the end of his day at university, Al-Hamaydeh goes to work daily at a brick factory to help provide for the family’s basic needs.

Mu’taz Sultan, another visitor to the second-hand clothes market, told Arab News that he was at first ashamed about visiting Firas market, choosing times when there was less traffic for fear of being seen by those who know him. But today he is less shy. After all, the economic crisis has hit the majority of the population, and “even traders were imprisoned for failing to pay their debts,” he said.

Sultan, who got a government job under the previous Hamas government, has received just 40 percent of his salary for some years, along with some 30,000 of his colleagues. He has found the second-hand market the right place to buy everything he needs, and takes his children on special occasions.

Second-hand clothing dealer Sameer Al-Asfar said his customers are from various social sectors, and every day new ones join the ranks of those who suffer from poverty and unemployment. 

As for the source of the second-hand clothing, Al-Asfar told Arab News: “The largest proportion comes from Israel, as (many Jews) change their old clothes in the Passover.”

Hussein Al-Sindawi, who has worked in the profession for more than 40 years after he inherited the business from his father, has shops in all cities of the Gaza Strip. He described his trade as interesting, especially during the years of siege and political division between Fatah and Hamas.

He said that the most expensive pieces displayed in his stores do not exceed 30 Israeli shekels (approximately $8).

Many Gaza residents are increasingly dependent on aid from local or international charities. 

Al-Sindawi said the clothes are delivered through the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing, packed in huge cardboard containers. Each container contains a certain grade of clothing according to its quality, and on this basis, the price per ton ranges from 3,000 to 6,000 shekels. The wholesaler sells them to retailers, and they end up in the hands of the customer after a long journey.

In the Gaza Strip, there are few shops offering new clothes and shoes from international brands, and the prices are too expensive for most residents to afford.

Hassan Zughra and his wife and children go to al-bala markets whenever they need new clothes, whether it is summer or winter. “I find my needs and the need of my five children in clothes and shoes, and I can buy all their needs at a much lower price than the brand-new clothing market,” he said.

“I and my children wear one of the most prestigious international brands of European goods that outweigh the quality of new goods in local markets,” he added.

While customers do not know the source of their garments, their desire to buy them is not affected. Om Wael Al-Burdini said she does not see the importance of knowing the source of the clothes, whether they come from Israel or Europe. What is important to her is that they are in good condition and at reasonable prices, and she is careful to wash them well.

Sherif Abu Mohsen agreed with Al-Burdini: “It does not matter where the clothes come from; I wash them well before I use them.”



Jordan braces for more anti-austerity protests

Updated 13 December 2018

Jordan braces for more anti-austerity protests

AMMAN: Jordanian authorities deployed hundreds of riot police in the capital and warned activists to stay within the law on Thursday ahead of another protest against the government's tough austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund.
Large demonstrations in the summer managed to bring down the previous government over an unpopular IMF-backed tax bill.
Protesters have held sporadic protests over the past two weeks and a judicial source said authorities had detained several people for chanting slogans critical of King Abdullah as well as the government.
"(For) anyone who breaches the law there will be punishment," government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat told reporters on Thursday.
"There are those who want to sow destruction... We must safeguard Jordan's stability and security," she said, adding that the government wanted dialogue.
The latest protests eruped after a largely pliant parliament last month approved a tax bill widely seen as making few changes to the unpopular law scrapped after the summer demonstrations.
Many Jordanians say the government, which faces a record public debt of around $40 billion and desperately needs to raise revenue, is eroding the disposable incomes of poorer and middle class Jordanians while letting the wealthy off the hook.
The protesters complain that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, appointed by King Abdullah after the summer protests, has not delivered on promises to jail corrupt officials and businessmen.
They also say he has sought public support for tough economic measures while failing to curb lavish public expenditure and improve public services, and that he should resign.
Jordan suffers from high unemployment, with regional conflicts weighing on business confidence. Poor economic growth has reduced tax revenues, forcing Jordan to borrow heavily abroad and also to resort to more domestic financing.