2018: War for Livelihood, Mohammad Khatem, Jidhafs Market Vendors and Flamerzi
2019-01-21 - 11:57 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Capital (Municipal) Secretariat launched a sudden campaign against Jidhafs market vendors in August 2018, one day after the newly appointed municipal director Shawkiyya Hmaidan visited the market.
The municipality all of a sudden decided to remove vendors' stands and clear their spots on the grounds of being in violation of the road works law, in the only market where Bahrainis make up the majority of vendors, despite the fact that these stands and spots have been there for many years as part of a tacit agreement with the municipality.
This caused a wave of public anger amongst the affected vendors. One video shows a man screaming at the municipality officials: "Treat us like Flamerzi!"
Nasser Bin Hamad, the Bahraini King's son, had visited the aforementioned man Mohammad Flamerzi, a Bahraini citizen who had been working alongside a main road in Hamad city with his brother. They peddled fish to earn a living, and when the municipalities decided to clear his spot, so he took to social media to protest this injustice. The king's son then confirmed that he will be supporting Flamerzi and offering him a new fishing boat.
Whereas, in Jidhafs, instead of receiving support to further develop the market, the vendors there have been rendered jobless. They now realized that even when seeking help from state officials, the outcomes would differ from one area to another and even from one citizen to another.
Flamerzi, who has become somewhat of a social icon, visited Jidhafs market and called on officials to listen to the cries of the unfortunate. Under all this pressure, the municipality retracted its decision, and started a project to develop the market and reorganize the spots.
On Sunday morning, July 15, a destitute Bahraini citizen went out under the burning sun to protest in front of the government headquarters wearing rags, holding a poster that read: "I am a Bahraini citizen without the means to support myself or my wife and children. Where do I go O king of this country?" The authorities' reaction was to arrest him immediately thereafter.
Khatem is a former detainee, a father of 4 children, and had been fired from his job at the Municipalities Ministry five years ago. Khatem said that he had gone everywhere in search for a job to no avail, and pointed out to his deteriorating living conditions, stressing that he is unable to provide food and clothing for his children.
He said that he no longer has any means to support himself, and found no other option but to take to the street holding this poster and say that he will not return unless the officials find him a way out.
The authorities released Khatem two weeks later and a month went by, as if nothing had taken place at all. None of the officials offered to help, so Khatem returned to protest again in front of the government headquarters in the business district of the capital city Manama only to be arrested again, The public prosecution ordered that he be imprisoned for a week pending investigation after he was accused of inciting hatred against the government.
A week later Khatem called his family from Al-Salmaniya hospital's emergency room, which he had entered as a result of his hunger strike, and told his family that the authorities were releasing him. A day later, Khatem said that he had received word that they were going to find a solution for him within a month's time. He said he was optimistic.
After a month and a half had passed since those false promises were given, Khatem took to the street again protesting outside the government building, demanding that the government fulfills the promises they had given him. Khatem appeared in a video holding a poster that read: "Prime minister, I am a citizen hoping to meet with you and express my complaints."
The prime minister did not meet with him, but the police took him into custody again and held him for three days.
Every time he lost hope, Khatem would make a video and repeat the phrase "I am tired". On December 2, he returned to the government headquarters to protest.
He was arrested again, and once he was released, he went straight back to the government building where he slept on the street in the cold. On the following day, he broadcast a video saying that he hopes that God will grant him salvation and soften the officials' hearts.
Khatem was arrested for the fifth time as the year 2018 came to an end and still all he has is a Twitter account, a desperate family, and a lost country.
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