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.”



Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

Updated 25 April 2019

Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

  • The bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen
  • Govt forces detained the bird on suspicion that the attached GPS tracker was a spy device for Houthi militants

SANAA: Griffon vulture Nelson crossed into war-torn Yemen in search of food but ended up in the hands of Yemeni fighters — and temporarily in jail for suspected espionage.
The sand-colored bird came down in the country’s third city of Taiz, an unusual move for a young vulture that can soar for long distances across continents in search of food and moderate weather.
Nelson, approximately two years old, embarked on his journey in September 2018 from Bulgaria, where his wing was tagged and equipped with a satellite transmitter by the Fund for Wild Fauna and Flora (FWFF).
But he seems to have lost his way, eventually coming down into Taiz — under siege by Houthi rebels but controlled by pro-government forces, who mistook Nelson’s satellite transmitter for an espionage device and detained the bird.
Forces loyal to the government believed that the GPS tracker attached to the bird may have been a spy device for the rebels.
Hisham Al-Hoot, who represents the FWFF in Yemen, traveled from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Taiz to plead with local officials to release the helpless animal.
“It took about 12 days to get the bird,” he told AFP.
“The Bulgarian foreign ministry reached out to the Yemeni ambassador, who in turn contacted local officials (in Taiz) and told them to immediately give the organization the vulture.”
Hoot said that the bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen — where the FWFF lost track of the bird.
Nelson was MIA until April 5, when the conservation group received hundreds of messages from Yemenis concerned about the creatures’ welfare.
Today, the locally-famous vulture is being properly fed and getting stronger every day.
“When we first took him, he was in very bad condition,” said Hoot, adding that the bird was underweight.
Smiling, he puts on gloves and carefully handles the majestic creature — blowing it a kiss.
Hoot said the bird will be released in two months when he believed Nelson will have regained his full strength and his wing — broken somewhere during his journey — will have healed.
“We thought at first it would take six months for him to heal, but now we don’t think it will be more than two months,” he said.
Hoot said that Nelson was not able to find any source of sustenance in Yemen.
“They can eat carcasses of dead animals, but now there is no more with the current situation of war.
“This is what forced him to come down and stopped him from completing his journey.”
The four-year conflict in Yemen has unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with millions facing famine.
The war escalated in March 2015 when a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened to bolster the efforts of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Since then, at least 10,000 people — most of them civilians — have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization. Other rights groups estimate the toll could be much higher.