Elections deprive the poor of Ramadan’s tables [Archives:2006/991/Front Page]

October 19 2006

Saddam Al-Ashmouri
“Discontinuing a habit is a causes amenity” repeats the thousands of poor and needy families and orphans who were deprived of the free Ramadan meals they used to get in previous years. Many philanthropists and charitable societies used to throw Iftar feasts for the poor every day during the month of Ramadan. This was exercised in the previous years, but this year only a few groups continued this habit and many others stopped because they dedicated their money in support of the September elections campaigns. Many poor families who hoped to get foods and cloths from charitable societies during Ramadan were disappointed.

After many societies closed their doors on the face of the poor, some of them stayed at home awaiting for deliverance while others went out in search of bread.

“Ramadan is a month of generosity, but people stopped being generous,” said Muhsen Ali Al-Auni, a family's breadwinner who has no work. In the past, he used to rely on the Feeding the Faster Project in Ramadan. “Last Ramadan, there was a faster feeding project in our area, but there is nothing this year. I have just come from Al-Hasaba Area to Sana'a Trade Center after we heard of a Ramadan tent distributing meals. Having arrived at the center, everyone was given a modest meal, consisting of _ chicken, a handful of rice, two sambousas and two dates, “which are not enough for a faster to break the fasting,” he complained.

“What about those having large families. How can they feed all the family members? There is no hope on our government. We don't know what to do. There are some societies distributing foods, but we cannot get there due to huge crowds,” said Al-Auni.

Mohamed Abdullah Al-Tawili, a mosque preacher, who was in charge of running a feeding project in the previous years, remarked, “in the previous years, we used to collect donations in the mosque and go to traders to receive their support to prepare faster feeding tables and distribute meals to homes of the poor and the needy. But, this year, people have become engaged in election campaigning before Ramadan. Also, when we went to traders and philanthropists, we found them engaged in the elections, and what we collected at the mosque is not enough to cover the cost of these projects.”

Al-Tawili added: “like many other small societies that quit charities during this Ramadan for several reasons, we are not an official society, nor do we affiliate to any political party to support us. The elections held before Ramadan made people engaged in campaigning at the expense of charity.”

Ali Saleh Al-Saghir, a tenant and one of those who depend on faster feeding projects in Ramadan, pointed out that he has five daughters, three sons and an ailing wife. He he has been looking for work for a long time.

“In the previous years, we used to get meals from charitable societies, but when we contacted these societies before this Ramadan to receive cards for getting foods as usual, they said the support they used to receive in the past is stopped this year as people have been engaged in the elections,” he explained.

Al-Saghir went on: “We then moved to other societies to get food, but find huge crowds of people queuing for meals. We don't know whether the support we used to get was spent on election campaigning and those who used to give charities has become in need of charity. We hope elections are not conducted before Ramadan in the years to come.”

Zakaria Al-Moayyad is the director of a charitable center and he said: “The Feeding the Faster Project this year was not expected because people have been extremely engaged in the elections.”

Asked about the center's activities, Al-Moayyad replied: “the center runs five bakeries with their grinding machines, which distribute breads to the poor and needy families around the year. Also, the center runs other occasional activities such as the Feeding the Faster Project, as well as delivering wears and meats to homes of the poor”

With regard to the number of families that benefit from the center, Zakaria said: “The center sponsors around 1800 poor and needy families. When one comes to us saying they are needy, we form a committee and go to his home to then write a report on his living condition, in light of which he/she gets a card to get charities.”

Asked about the resources of support, which the center depends on, he explained: “There are many unidentified philanthropists who give us 400 to 500 sacks of wheat and others donate money. Also, we collected donations in the mosque, but the collected sums of money are not enough. We still suffer the lack of support, compared to the increasing numbers of poor people. Having known the living condition of any person who visits the center, we give him/her charity. We invite all the philanthropists to visit the center to evaluate our performance.”

Many families depend on the Charitable Center, run by Sheikh Mohamed Al-Moayyad, who is currently detained in a U.S. jail, but his charities are still reaching thousands of the poor and the needy.

In this respect, Umm Samira said, “when I heard of the detention of Al-Moayyad, I was shocked since I sustain four fatherless children. After the death of my husband, who left behind nothing, I, along with my children, have been receiving aids including foods and wears from this center. We urge philanthropists and generous people to support the center and all the needy. Who will feed us if the center halts work, as the government gives us nothing, nor does it know that I am the breadwinner of four orphans who lost their father.”

She expresses the thoughts of many who go to the same charity, “I pray to Allah to release Sheikh Mohamed Al-Moayyad because it is he who returned the smile to my orphans.”

Sheikh Mohamed Al-Moayyad, one of the most famous philanthropists in Yemen, has been detained in a U.S. jail for more than three years. He was extradited from Germany to the US in 2003 and has been sentenced to 75 years in prison and fined US $1.2 million for allegedly conspiring to support and fund al-Qaida and Hammas.

Al-Moayyad is widely respected in Yemen as a champion of the poor. His charities are making sure there is food on Ramadan tables.