Al-Tahreer Square in Taiz, a time bomb [Archives:2003/658/Reportage]

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August 11 2003
Taiz-based Attahreer car park has been used for transporting people,
Taiz-based Attahreer car park has been used for transporting people,
Farooq Muqbil
For the Yemen Times, Taiz

Something is going on, Taxi drivers in Tahreer Square in Taiz are sensing a disaster in the air. They said they are sensing slow death coming up upon them. For more than 140 families, this square symbolizes financial security and the only income source.
In the nineties, this very square was offered for sale and then Taiz just went upside down and things did not come back to normal until instructions from the president were to stop the sale.
But now a threat of a new type came up, Taxi drivers are going to be jobless in no time as a cheaper transport method turned up to compete with them and this is the mini buses called “dabab”. In essence, this could be termed as progress as the traffic authorities allocated transport lines passing through the city taking different directions and lanes in order to facilitate public transport. But the issue is that one's gain is the other's loss and this is exactly what is happening in the Tahreer square in Taiz.

The real problem
Taxi drivers for years have been working in this square earning a living through transporting people. Those drivers could not find any jobs elsewhere although they are degree holders with specialties like arts, history, geography, law and all are working as taxi drivers because no other place had space for them. And now this place too, for the past two years, has been too small for both taxi drivers and the mini buses, forcing 14 taxi drivers to sell their cars and look for earning their living else where.

What do they have to say?
“We do not object to the changes taking place, we just want the traffic authorities to ensure our living. The bus drivers take passengers right from the “albab alkabeer” and “bab musa” stations and we stay here waiting for the non-existing passengers.” This is what Saif Mansour Al-Muikhlafi said.
Abdu Fari Al-Qirshi says: “I have been working here for the past 40 years and everything was fine until this problem emerged. Now only 35 cars from 140 are left.”
Abdu Mohammed Salih who studied law at Sana'a University says: “I could not find another job, so here I am and now tens of families are affected by the new changes and this causes many to turn into the streets for begging. They scream we are hungry and ill who can help us?”
Driver Saif Mansour said that the solution was suggested but was not executed where he said: “when the problem started we were assured by the syndicate that we will be supported to change our cars for busses and work on the same line and we did agree to that but still until day nothing progressed and we are still waiting for the last 7 months!”
Yaseen Salih Al-Jamma' commented that what is happening might be in the interest of someone especially that a few years ago the whole place would have been sold if it had not been for the president's inference. “Maybe this is an introduction to kicking us all out of the square.” He exclaimed.

What do authorities have to say?
Head of the traffic authority in Taiz General Yahya Zahir when asked about the issue said: “these cars have become totally outdated and they are no longer usable. Car owners should do something about this and it is their responsibility to develop themselves. We personally have no responsibility towards them and survival is for the fittest.”
If the Tahreer Square no longer can accommodate those people where would they be heading? It is quite a sad situation and how come organizing has to start from here, when all around the city there are more urgent issues in traffic that need to be tackled such as diesel cars which spread pollution in the air whereas those taxis run on petrol. Sometimes it's just not fair, and we hope that this case is not an introduction to something much worse.
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