Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum

Special Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum
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Arab Women Forum 2022 hosted wide-ranging conversations surrounding critical regional and global issues. (AN photo by Zubiya Shaikh)
Special Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum
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Arab Women Forum 2022 hosted wide-ranging conversations surrounding critical regional and global issues. (AN photo by Zubiya Shaikh)
Special Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum
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Arab Women Forum 2022 hosted wide-ranging conversations surrounding critical regional and global issues. (AN photo by Zubiya Shaikh)
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Updated 18 May 2022

Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum

Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum
  • Event in Dubai hosted wide-ranging conversations with strong focus on women’s empowerment
  • Topics ranged from breaking of barriers and dating scams to fake news and potential of Arab women

DUBAI: Arab women breaking traditional barriers, online dating scams, the economic toll of fake news and the potential of women in the Middle East and North Africa were among the many issues debated at the Arab Women Forum in Dubai on Tuesday.

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2018, the AWF is a platform to enhance and support the ever-growing contribution of Arab women in the region’s economy and society. 

The forum hosts wide-ranging conversations to explore regional and global business dynamics with a strong focus on women’s empowerment. 

AWF & TOP CEO CONFERENCE AGENDA

Special Address: Beyond the Business Reset. 

Keynote: When Women Fight Back.

Storytellers From The War Front.

A New Beginning: work 2.0. 

Arab Women’s Image. 

It’s Fake News. 

The Management Bottlenecks. 

The Leaking Pipeline. 

The Workplace Of Tomorrow. 

Women In Tech. 

Saudi Women Pioneers: Change From Within.

This year’s event, hosted at the Palazzo Versace hotel at the Jaddaf Waterfront, featured speakers from a range of professions and industries and experiences, and kicked off with a special address by Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, delivered by video from Washington, D.C. 

Princess Reema, who is also a female entrepreneur, shared her thoughts on the post-pandemic business scenarios and Saudi Arabia’s plan for economic diversification, environment sustainability and gender diversity under Vision 2030, the reform strategy introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016. 

In a special address titled “Beyond the business reset,” she underscored the importance of not just opening doors for women to enter the workplace, but welcoming them in. “We have millions of talented, motivated women eager to contribute, and they are the key to social, cultural and economic progress in the Kingdom and, frankly, in the Arab world and around the world,” she said. 

 

 

Saudi Arabia has done a “great reset” by transforming itself, and is entering the “restart” phase after successfully handling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. “In post-pandemic, there is less reset and more restart,” Princess Reema said. 

From embracing technologies, reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, to empowering and advancing women in different fields, Saudi Arabia is opening the door wide for a brighter future being built by both men and women, she said. 

“I have not seen the change; I lived it. I know how important it is to open the workplace for women. When the doors for women were about to open, I realized that opening the doors wasn’t enough; women had to be prepared to take advantage of those open doors. We have to equip them with skills,” she said. 

Speaking to Arab News, Nora Al-Dabal, arts and creative planning executive director at the Royal Commission of AlUla, said Saudi women have always played a role in the development of Saudi Arabia, “but the (2030) Vision has unlocked the full potential of, and opened bigger opportunities” for women. 




Nora Al Dabal, executive director of Arts and Creative Industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla. (AN photo)

In the past four years, there has been a 130 percent increase in female participation in the labor force, particularly in the private sector, Al-Dabal said. 

“Today, women constitute 30 percent of the private-sector labor force. In the past two years, there has been an increase of 60 percent in the number of businesses owned by women,” she added.

Princess Reema’s speech reflected the seriousness of the Saudi leadership in transforming the Kingdom, diversifying its economy and utilizing the potential of all its citizens, said Deepali Janin, an Indian businesswoman who attended the event. 

Janin, the founding director of Meraki, a family-owned diamond business that began in India some seven decades ago, entered Dubai in 2011 and now is looking at the Saudi market. 

“I feel the Saudi leadership is dedicated and serious about its planning and thinking. I think it is going to be a long journey, meaning more strength, more confidence and more influence.”

Story tellers from the war front

Some believe women journalists are successful because of their attention to detail. But for Arizh Mukhammed, a war correspondent, it is a woman’s heart and emotions that make her coverage of conflicts distinctive. 




Arizh Mukhammed. (AN photo)

“It is not easy to cover war, because like any human being, you feel fear and I feel fear,” said Mukhammed, a reporter for Sky News who, together with Christiane Baissary, a senior news anchor for the Al-Hadath news channel, participated in a session entitled “Story tellers from the war front.” 

Acknowledging that “fear will be there in the minds of reporters as they cover from the front lines,” Mukhammed said: “Your courage must have limits. When you are going to cover war, you have your fears, but they must be put under control.” 

Following the panel discussion, she said she could not ignore human suffering and agony in her own war reporting. “Women war journalists find a deeper dimension in human suffering”. She added that men might surround themselves with the impression that they are “strong and fearless, but women actually are much more patient and are strong enough.” 

For her part, Baissary said there is a common misconception that women are not suited for war coverage as some think women are emotional and more sensitive than men. “A soldier once told me that women should not be in a war zone. He was trying to convince me that I should not stay to cover the war,” she said. 




Al-Hadath senior news anchor Christiane Baissary (right) and Arizh Mukhammed of SkyNews (center) participate in panel discussions moderated by Noor Nugali, Arab News assistant editor-in-chief. (AN photo)

“This mentality is not just in the Middle East but everywhere,” she said, adding that things have now changed and women are gaining more opportunities to cover conflict zones. 

The moderator of the discussion, Noor Nugali, Arab News assistant editor-in-chief, praised the role of women journalists deployed to war zones, citing the career of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while on assignment for the channel on May 11 in the West Bank city of Jenin. 

“I think it was really important for us to highlight female war correspondents and women correspondents because what they are doing is just out of the ordinary,” Nugali said in remarks after the session. “Usually when people think of correspondents, the first thing that comes to their minds (is) women are too soft, women are incapable of handling such situations. But the reality proves the resilience, strength of women and capability of female correspondents.”

It’s fake news

We are overwhelmed with incidents of fake news in our daily lives. They range from rumors on social media to footage of incidents taken out of context. 

“It is imperative to distinguish that fake news wasn’t invented with the rise of social media,” said Faisal Abbas, Arab News editor-in-chief, during a panel discussion on the subject at Tuesday’s Top CEO Conference at the same venue. 




“There is no end to fake news but we must continue to battle it,”  Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abas said during a panel discussion at the Top CEO Forum in Dubai on May 17. (AN photo)

“Fake news started with the beginning of humanity,” he said, alluding to the manipulation of Adam and Eve by Satan, who tricked them into eating the forbidden fruit. 

The panelists discussed attempts to define fake news and identify those responsible for preventing its spread throughout the world, and especially the Arab region, known for its high social media engagement. 

Hussein Freijeh, Snap Inc MENA’s general manager, said authorities’ efforts to regulate social platforms “doesn’t take away the responsibility of the tech platforms” in tackling the problem of fake news. 

Fellow panelist Khaled Abdulla Janahi, chairman of Vision 3, said even the non-inclusion of a small fraction of the facts during narration amounts to dissemination of fake news.  

“People sometimes are frustrated, so they look for a way to express their anger. But it is important for people to express their perspectives,” he said. 

Noting that content that includes or reflects anger, hate and racism brings traffic, Abbas said: “Nobody is against freedom. We are against chaos.” 

The keynote speech at the AWF was delivered by Cecilie Fjellhøy and Pernilla Sjöholm, stars of the recent hit Netflix documentary film “The Tinder Swindler.” 

They spoke about their journeys from being victims of romance scam to an inspiration for women around the world. Instead of hiding in oblivion, the women have gained the status of global inspiration against emotional fraud.


Israel human rights group targets West Bank settlements expansion

Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
Updated 12 sec ago

Israel human rights group targets West Bank settlements expansion

Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
  • The report indicated a 26 percent increase in planning housing units in settlements — 7,292 compared with an annual average of 5,784 housing units under the Netanyahu government

RAMALLAH: Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank has increased dramatically under the recently dissolved coalition government, a report by an Israeli human rights organization reveals.

In a survey published on June 25, the Israeli Peace Now movement said that since the current government took office in June 2021, the building of new settlement units in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, has risen by 62 percent compared with the previous Benjamin Netanyahu leadership.

Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on June 20 announced a deal to dissolve the parliament, appointing Lapid as prime minister of an interim government, and triggering early elections.

The decision follows “exhausting attempts to stabilize the coalition,” a joint statement said.

The Peace Now report shows that despite its commitment to a status quo regarding the occupation, a year after the government took office, it not only continued the policies of previous governments, but also stepped up the settlement project and the oppression of Palestinians.

The report indicated a 26 percent increase in planning housing units in settlements — 7,292 compared with an annual average of 5,784 housing units under the Netanyahu government.

Six new outposts and a new settlement in Hebron, the first in 40 years, were among the government’s approvals.

The Bennett-Lapid government deepened the expulsion policy of Palestinians and their restriction to the constrained enclaves in Areas A and B.

As of June 6, the Israeli civil administration had demolished 639 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, causing 604 people to lose their homes.

In East Jerusalem, 189 structures were demolished and 450 Palestinians left homeless.

According to the Peace Now report, only 10 building permits were granted for Palestinians, compared with 1,448 housing units whose construction began in the settlements in the second half of 2021 and 2,526 in the entire year.

Under the Bennett-Lapid government, 86 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank alone compared with 41 under the Netanyahu governments.

Khalil Al-Tafkaji, a Palestinian expert specializing in settlement affairs and director of the map department at the Arab Studies Association in Jerusalem, told Arab News: “The Israeli right is in agreement on two things: Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and it was a fierce competition between the two governments as to who accelerates the increase in settlements.”

The Israeli settlements program in the Palestinian territories has been “green lighted” by all Israeli governments as they seek to raise the number of settlers to 1 million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by 2025, Al-Tafkaji said.

“All Israeli parties, without exception, do not think of giving the Palestinians a state, but rather see them living in cantons surrounded by settlements and their streets on all sides,” he said.

“The settlers are now leading an intifada of physical attacks against the Palestinians and their property in the West Bank because of their high number and sense of absolute power.”

The Bennett-Lapid government declared 22,000 dunams of land as a nature reserve in the Nachal Og area, south of Jericho. It continued the trend of the Netanyahu government in changing the reality in the Temple Mount (the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound) and the erosion of the status quo.

The supporters of a two-state solution in the Israeli government have failed to stop these actions and left the policies regarding the occupation to those who support the settlement project.

Settlement activity across the West Bank flourished during former US President Donald Trump’s time in power, even though it was considered illegal under international law and threatened the two-state solution.

Palestinians see it as one of the main obstacles to establishing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

 


Jordanian university nursing student killed on campus laid to rest

Jordanian police stand guard in downtown Amman, Jordan. (REUTERS)
Jordanian police stand guard in downtown Amman, Jordan. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 min 30 sec ago

Jordanian university nursing student killed on campus laid to rest

Jordanian police stand guard in downtown Amman, Jordan. (REUTERS)
  • Social media users launch hashtag demanding justice

AMMAN: Jordanian university student Iman Ersheid, who was reportedly gunned down on campus, was laid to rest on Friday in the northern city of Irbid.

Ersheid, 18, was killed by an unidentified assailant on Thursday. Police said the suspect was wearing a cap.

She was a nursing student at the Applied Science University in Amman’s Shafa Badran neighborhood.

Police spokesperson Lt. Col. Amer Sartawi said criminal investigation personnel had identified the shooting suspect, who was still at large.

The police raided his house on Friday but he was not there. “But the search is underway for the suspect.”

He said official statements would be issued, and he urged people to adhere to the gag order issued by the attorney general banning the publication of any news about the case.

Police said the victim was shot over five times by the suspect, who fled the scene after committing the crime.

An eyewitness, who is a colleague of Ersheid, spoke on condition of anonymity and said the assailant had entered the university from its main gate brandishing a weapon.

She told Arab News that Ersheid was shot right after she left the exam hall at around 10 a.m.

Asked how a man could enter the university with a gun, the eyewitness replied: “I don’t know because the norm is that only students can enter and are sometimes asked to show their student ID to security. The university is now investigating the issue.”

She said the suspect fled the campus firing shots into the air. “I didn’t see that but was told about it by those who were present at the crime scene.”

The victim’s father said his last contact with his daughter was on the phone at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

“My daughter told me that she finished her exam and I told her to wait at the university until her brother comes and picks her up. He was on the way with the car to her,” the father told journalists.

But, two hours later, the father said he received a call from the police saying his daughter was being treated at a hospital.

Social media users launched a hashtag demanding justice for Ersheid and the severest punishment for the killer. The hashtag - “capital punishment for Iman’s killer” - was trending on social media.

The university offered condolences to her family in a Facebook post.

Zakaria Mubasher, the university’s student affairs dean, said the suspected killer was not a university student.

Mubasher told the government-owned Al-Mamlaka TV: “The security personnel at the university first thought the gunshots were firecrackers, but later realized that a student was shot.”

He said there were 800 surveillance cameras installed in different places in the university and that cameras had captured images of the killer. “The footage is now in the hands of the police.”

Mubasher added that the university’s security personnel had attempted to stop the suspect, but “he fired several rounds in the air so that he could escape, which he did.”

Following the incident, a group of MPs from the National Guidance Committee said they would meet with the government to discuss arm possession laws in Jordan.

Sociologist Kamal Mirza said the shooting must only be examined from a “criminal perspective.”

“Campus shooting and shooting incidents, in general, have not reached the alarming phenomenon level. Taking into consideration the low level of such crimes in Jordan, sociology should still not be used as an analytical tool.”

Mirza told Arab News that from a “statistical point of view” murder as a crime in Jordan was not a social practice yet, but a behavior.

“Maybe psychology could be applied to analyzing this crime. It is possible that the killer suffers from behavioral disorders.”

According to the latest official statistics, the country's crime rate decreased by 5.39 percent in 2021.

The Public Security Directorate report said 20,991 crimes were committed in Jordan in 2021, 1,196 down from the 22,187 registered in 2020.

There were 5,237 murders recorded in 2021.


Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres

Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres
Updated 22 min 15 sec ago

Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres

Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres
  • Aircraft from both sides of Cyprus, as well as British military and Israeli personnel, had responded to calls for help to fight the fire
  • The fire has been extinguished to a large extent with the effect of the rain that fell last night

KANTARA, Cyprus: In the end, it was Mother Nature that extinguished a wildfire that scorched thousands of acres and forced the evacuation of villages in the north of divided Cyprus, officials said Saturday.
Aircraft from both sides of Cyprus, as well as British military and Israeli personnel, had responded to calls for help to fight the fire which began Tuesday in the Kantara area of the Kyrenia mountain range.
“The fire... has been extinguished to a large extent with the effect of the rain that fell last night,” said Unal Ustel, prime minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Ankara.
“We have survived a great disaster.”
There have been no reports of casualties but Turkish Cypriot authorities said more than 6,500 acres (2,600 hectares) had been burned.
Helicopters were still dropping water onto the burning ridge lines on Friday, before intense rains fell overnight.
Forestry department head Cemil Karzaoglu said the fire was completely under control and mopping up operations were continuing where smoke was still visible.
Ustel expressed gratitude to “the British Base Areas, Israel and the Greek Cypriot administration for their support in extinguishing the fire from the air.”
The United Nations peacekeeping force said it coordinated the firefighting response.
According to Cypriot media reports earlier, at least four villages were evacuated.
Emergency services from Israel and Britain’s Sovereign Base Areas on the eastern Mediterranean island often help fight Cyprus’s frequent wildfires.
In July last year, blazes that broke out in the Larnaca and Limassol districts claimed the lives of four Egyptian farmworkers and destroyed more than 12,000 acres.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish forces occupied the northern part of the island in response to a military coup sponsored by the junta in power in Greece at the time.


UNRWA in ‘early warning mode’ after shortfall at pledging conference

UNRWA in ‘early warning mode’ after shortfall at pledging conference
Updated 25 June 2022

UNRWA in ‘early warning mode’ after shortfall at pledging conference

UNRWA in ‘early warning mode’ after shortfall at pledging conference
  • Agency subject to smear campaign that ignores pioneering achievements, its chief tells Arab News
  • UN Relief and Works Agency supports millions of Palestinian refugees in Middle East

UNITED NATIONS: The solution to the chronic underfunding of the UN agency helping Palestinian refugees lies in a “political will” that matches declarations of support for its work, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency told Arab News.

Philippe Lazzarini’s comments came at a press briefing a day after a pledging conference that raised $160 million from international donors.

This leaves the agency short of $100 million needed to support education for more than half a million Palestinian children, health care services for over 2 million people, and cash assistance for the poorest among them.

The $100 million shortfall is about the same as UNRWA has faced every year for almost a decade.

This year, however, skyrocketing costs mean the agency will not be able to absorb the shortfall through austerity and cost-control measures as “there’s very little left to cut without cutting services,” Lazzarini said, adding that the money should tide UNRWA over until September, but things are up in the air after that.

“We’re in an early warning mode,” he said. “Right now, I’m drawing attention that we’re in a danger zone and we have to avoid a situation where UNRWA is pushed to cross the tipping point, because if we cross the tipping point that means 28,000 teachers, health workers, nurses, doctors, engineers can’t be paid.”

He added that UNRWA has a very strong donor base in Europe, and last year the Biden administration restored funding, reversing former US President Donald Trump’s aid freeze.

But Lazzarini said the overall contribution from the Arab world has dropped to less than 3 percent of the agency’s income.

“What’s also true is that the Arab world and the Gulf countries have always shown great solidarity with Palestinian refugees, and have always been involved in financing the construction of schools and clinics, and whenever there was a humanitarian emergency, to contribute to the humanitarian response,” he added. “This is very important to keep.”

He said the Arab League has been discussing for two years that its contribution to UNRWA should at least amount to 7-8 percent of the agency’s core budget.

“There’s room for increased solidarity, and having the region committed means a lot to the Palestinians,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine cast a shadow over the donor conference, where some admitted to financial difficulties and donor fatigue.

“Funding the agency’s services has been put at risk today because of de-prioritization, or maybe increased indifference, or because of domestic politics,” Lazzarini said. “We’ll know better at the end of the year how much it will impact the agency.”

Some donors have already warned UNRWA “that we might not have the traditional top-up at the end of the year, which would be dramatic” for the agency, he added.

UNRWA was established in 1949 following a resolution by the UN General Assembly to carry out relief efforts for the 750,000 Palestinians who were forced from their homes when Israel was established in 1948.

There are now about 6 million Palestinian refugees living in camps in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

“Today, we have some classrooms with up to 50 kids,” Lazzarini said. “We have a double shift in our schools. We have doctors who can’t spend more than three minutes in medical consultation. So if we go beyond that, it will force the agency to cut services.”

UNRWA’s problem is that “we’re expected to provide government-like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region, but we’re funded like an NGO because we depend completely on voluntary contributions,” he added.

Ahead of Thursday’s donor conference, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s permanent UN representative, had urged countries to stop contributions until UNRWA fires teachers that his country claims support terrorism and killing Jews.

Lazzarini said UNRWA received a letter from Israel’s UN Mission on Friday that he had not read, but all allegations will be investigated and if there is a breach of UN values and misconduct, “we’ll take measures in line with UN policies.”

He added that UNRWA’s detractors are usually civil society organizations that “seek to undermine the agency, usually target lawmakers, and talk about (UNRWA’s) textbooks and education in schools without acknowledging the extraordinary efforts exerted by the agency to ensure quality education in line with UNESCO standards.

“I keep reminding we’re the only ones having reached gender equality, having a proper human rights curriculum in the region, that we’re regularly assessed by third parties.

“The World Bank assessed that we’re high value for money when it comes to education. Children are one year ahead compared to public education in the region.

“We have extraordinary human success stories of kids who have gone to our schools and succeeded at international level.”

He said UNRWA’s operations are among the most heavily scrutinized but “despite that, there’s smear campaign on issues — which sometimes need indeed to be addressed — but which never acknowledge the efforts being put by the agency.”
 


60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises

60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises
Updated 25 June 2022

60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises

60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises

BEIRUT: On Saturday, 60,933 Lebanese students took their intermediate certificate exams (Brevet) amid severe power cuts, water shortages and inflated transport costs.
However, the security forces provided a peaceful environment inside the exam centers while the Lebanese Army was deployed outside.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education organized exams around where invigilators live to reduce transport costs. It also ensured that exams were only taken in centers that students and teachers could efficiently access.
Lebanon’s worsening financial crisis and the local currency’s depreciation meant that the ministry faced several challenges for holding the exams.
The ministry canceled the exams last year during the pandemic and struggled to organize them this year amid a teachers’ strike and parents grappling with the high costs of driving their children to centers.
Making matters worse for the students, an unusual end-of-June thunderstorm hit Lebanon on Saturday morning. Given the cloudy weather, the ministry had to plead with private generator owners to provide exam centers with power so students can clearly see their exam sheets.
In some centers in Diniyeh, northern Lebanon, exams were delayed for over two hours due to the power outage and the storm.
The second part of the Brevet exams will be held on Monday; just two days of exams are now required after subjects were reduced to five instead of nine.
The official exams of the Lebanese Baccalaureate Certificate of Secondary Education, which 43,000 students will take, are scheduled to start on Wednesday and last for three days.
A total of 12,000 teachers are supervising the official exams as the official education associations decided not to boycott exams at the last minute despite their demands to raise the allowance.
Imad Al-Ashkar, director general at the ministry, who heads the examining committees, said the suspension of studies as a result of the teachers’ strike and online schooling have been taken into account while setting exam papers.
The ministry has resorted to donors to secure additional funds to pay teachers for supervising and correcting official exams.
The teachers were promised an increase in financial allowances for supervisors and heads of exam centers; 160,000 LBP ($6.34) and 200,000 LBP respectively. They were also promised a $20 daily allowance provided by donor countries.
The currency depreciation means that the supervisor’s allowance is only enough to buy them a sandwich and a soda. Meanwhile, the price of a 20-liter gasoline canister is almost 700,000 LBP.
The struggle of education workers is being replicated by all the Lebanese, who are facing a living crisis that has reached unacceptable limits, as bakeries are running out of bread and water is barely reaching households since the Water Establishment cannot afford diesel to run its pump.
Power cuts are ongoing and more medicines are expected to go missing from pharmacies as subsidies will be lifted on more chronic disease medicines next week.
Traders are taking advantage of the crisis to make illegal profits; the cost of 10 barrels of household water has doubled to 1 million LBP.
Some bakery owners have reported that people in the southern suburb of Beirut are buying all the flour from the mills at a subsidized price before setting up stands near bakeries, selling flour bags at double their price while the security services stand idly by.