Ramadhan and Taxes [Archives:2008/1188/Opinion]

September 8 2008

“Look Mom, you are not going to stay up all night just praying and reciting the Qur’an, are you?” asked Nasr hoping that he could get his mother to give some consideration as to how to fill her son’s tummy when the sunset cannon booms. This is the first year that it has become obligatory for him to fast the whole month.

His brother Abdu could not let go of the opportunity: “Yeah, Mom. You ought to be checking out your recipe book to see what can fill up our brother’s ballooning stomach after having spent 14 hours or so trying to figure out how he is going to break the fast! Really now Nasr, get a hold of yourself, Mom is not forgetting that her primary God ordained duty is to keep our tummies full, especially in Ramadhan”.

Nasr wasn’t at all pleased with the first part of his brother’s remark and was ready to accept the second: “Abdu, you know how hard it is for me not to stop filling up my tummy as the day goes on. Now, a couple of hours a day are all right, but 12 to 14 hours a day, that is really taxing.”

His father was aroused by the word with the T A X in it: “It is not more taxing than the taxes the Government has come to impose upon us left and right. If you had to pay just half the taxes I pay, you would probably call the Security Council to an extraordinary session to see how the world governments could bail us out of the monster that our government has come to be in taxes.”

The mother never liked her men to get carried away about complaining about the Government/: “Now, Gents, how many times must I tell you stop blabbing away at the Government anytime you guys feel ,like it. Can you tell me which Government has managed to live without taxes? Even our oil rich neighbors to the North impose some taxes, when everyone knows that they do not need such things”

Abdu again wanted to get a chance at his mother this time: “Mom, you do not think anyone of us here is an informer do you, going out of your way to defend our helpless Government. In any case, I do not mind paying taxes, as long as I can see where the taxes are going.”

Nasr also saw a good opportunity to get a punch in at the Government: “If you want to see where your taxes are going just take a stroll along the “diplomatic” quarter of Sana’a, where all the plush palaces of our government officials are now bringing in the US $ rentals to our already over bloated officials. Have you ever seen such extravagance: green stones mixed with red and fine glass stained arches hanging above Swedish mahogany carpented windows? Now how can you claim that you do not see where your dad’s taxes are going?”

The mother’s protective instinct again came forward: “Now that is touching the Government where it really hurts and where it will send any of you to jail if not all of you.”

Now the boys were showing their unhappiness at their mother’s chicken streak. Both said at the same time: “Mom, would you stop this cowardice!”

The father again spoke: “Now you guys, I will not tolerate you speaking to your mother like that. She is only doing what her instinct as a mother tells her to do. She is only safeguarding her children’s teeth, lest some of the thugs of the security organs decide to knock a couple of the teeth out in some obscure corner of the outskirts of the city! Can you imagine Nasr here trying to make up for lost time after the Muezzin has made the call to the Sunset Prayer with half his teeth gone?”

The mother showed another side of her instinct: “Now you guys should stop making fun of Nasr, just because he likes to eat his mother’s cooking.”

“Come on mom”, Abdu cut in, continuing, “Nasr wouldn’t stop munching even if all that he could find was hay. Did you not see how he filled his belly up just before sunup? I almost thought that his stomach was going to blow up from the overload it was carrying after that meal.”

The father again came up with a remark: “I am taxed heavily thrice: once by the cut throat government that will soon tax us for the air we breathe, which is polluted anyway by the public enterprises it owns and the petrol (not well refined) it sells to us; by the sleazy merchants who have never heard of any profits less than 200% and by Nasr here, who insist that half of the grocery is rightfully his and now does not even want his mother to take time out for prayer.”

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.’),(2,’Citizens receive Ramadan with expired commodities’,’Najeeb Al-Ghurbani’,0,’All the farmers and laborers are extremely engaged in how to provide bread for their families while the government and opposition is very busy in constitutional amendments and useless speeches. Both the government and opposition made us in trouble while Friday remains the same Friday and the sermon remains the same sermon. This implies that there is nothing new in their speeches, dialogues or negotiations.

Suddenly without any indicators, Ramadan, the Holy Month of worship and purification, came. And because the government is unable to do anything in Ramadan or throughout the year with regard to fighting the phenomenon of price hikes, created by irresponsible tradesmen, who never consider exaltedness of the holy month, the local markets have become flooded with expired foodstuffs and other commodities.

I would like to inform you that one day I went to a pharmacy to buy a Cerelak milk for my baby girl, but I was shocked to find out that this commodity is not available. In the street, I found that large quantities of expired commodities are being sold by vendors. I also noticed that vendors are selling various kinds of commodities such as honey, milk and dates.

The local markets are excessively flooded with expired foodstuffs while citizens, who are seemingly suffering from malnutrition, anemia and severe poverty, rush to purchase a lot of such expired commodities merchandized by vendors. Those rushing to buy from these expired goods are either limited income citizens, farmers, laborers or marginalized people whose living standards deteriorated due poor policies exercised by the government that only encourage corruption to become rampant and poverty to become severer.

I remained perplexed asking myself, ‘Where are the oversight authorities and agencies concerned with product specifications and quality control, as well as the Consumer Protection Authority? No one of these parties monitor expired commodities sold by vendors in streets of the capital city and other main cities nationwide.

It is not acceptable, if not taboo, for citizens to receive Ramadan with expired or faked commodities. Why the good government doesn’t realize the risky diseases suffered by citizens from day to day. The Yemeni citizens consume trafficked pesticides and cancerous substances, which have remained in stores until becoming unusable.

Shame on our government:

The Yemeni popular markets turned to be a landfill for waste disposal, specifically as goods merchandized in such markets contravenes even the simplest international specifications followed in the other world countries. The neighboring states don’t justify what happens in Yemen’s local markets where the government approves the mechanism of free market while vendors exploit this concept to replace free trade by free chaos.

Street vendors also exploit the government’s being unable to arrest or question any tradesmen, who have been already charged with monopolizing goods or trafficking them illegally into our homeland. They also exploit poor awareness on the part of citizens, who never check the dates of production and expiry on cans or boxes of products. The government doesn’t feel ashamed to say that it has many oversight committees to monitor foodstuffs in local markets. The government doesn’t feel ashamed that it has no specific laws to govern the process of exporting foreign products into the country.

It is extremely ridiculous to see that citizens are living in a territory without law and order, particularly as their own government cares about sponsoring irresponsible tradesmen who create multiple crises with negative impacts on citizens’ living conditions.

The shame is on a government that proved unable to monitor and control what is taking place in the local markets. The ordinary citizen has become a victim of his government. Ramadan Karim and acceptable fasting for the ordinary citizen! In order to be healthier, the government should fast by refraining from corruption and stop embezzling public funds.

Source: Al-Tagheer.com’),(3,’Ramadan Karim:
Similar memories get repeated every year’,’Kamal Faruq’,0,’Like every year, Ramadan comes with memories flash back into my mind. The holy month is the most wonderful time I spend with my family, friends and relatives every year. Remembering how my mother makes the “Iftar” after returning back from work makes me yearn and tear to those warm days. My sister cutting the onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc, my father bringing the hot fresh “Samoon”, the Iraqi bread, and me preparing the daily orange juice, is how we help my mother in making the food ready on time.

“Allahu Akbar”, is on TV announcing it’s time to break our fasting. Of course, before everything, we thank God for His blessings and promising Him to fast the next day.

“Bismillah”, [means In the Name of God], we utter before the first bite. Yogurt, water, dates, Kabab, rice, bread, olive, juice, salads, chicken, and the daily lintel soup decorate our table.

My father used to ask my sister and me about our school and as every year we tell him “We are doing great!” and we did.

“Alhamdollilah,” we usually say after finishing Iftar. We go to the living room, pray and then watch our favorite series and TV shows. But when we had examinations, we had to study instead of watching TV!

Ramadhan: Best time to invite relatives

Every Ramadhan, we have to invite relatives and friends for Iftar and vise versa. This great month makes all of us full of will and happiness to help others. Once, we had a next-door neighboring family who were not able to buy a piece of bread due to the difficult life many Iraqis went through during the sanctions. I remember my mother decided to cook for them the whole Ramadan.

Carrying the tray, once I went to tell them that we are going to share Iftar with them. “You are so kind and we will never forget this favor,” the mother told me while she was wiping her tears from her sad eyes. “We are a family. We should share our food together,” I said. Then we joined them and had one of the wonderful times in my life.

When I was in college, I used to go with my friends to have Iftar every Wednesday to a very well-known restaurant in Baghdad, Qasim Abu Al Gus. My favorite part in this was drinking the dark Iraqi tea after finishing eating.

Life was so normal, safe and happy at that time. Although there was an embargo but I remember that Ramadan time was different. People used to deploy in Baghdad after Iftar. Adhamiya, Karrada, Palestine Street, Mansour, Kadhimiya and other neighborhoods were thirsty to have the people irrigate them with love and warmth

The happy days in Ramadan changed a little bit after I graduated from college. Of course, I have a job now where I spend twelve hours in it everyday. So, normally, I have Iftar in my office instead of my home.

In this office, I have another family whom I share Iftar with. “Time for Iftar,” our friendly colleague F. announces every day. We all gather to share the great food our amazing cooks make. Eating, chatting and laughing, we spend our Iftar time and then go back to work. Being among my second family makes life for me a little bit normal in an abnormal time my country is going through.

I cannot say I am completely optimistic but I believe that one day, normal Ramadan will be back and we will have normal life, if not for us, maybe for the coming generations.’),(4,’Sheikh Mohammed Al-Moayyad: a philanthropist in a U.S. jail’,’Raddad Al-Sallami’,0,’The worst crime committed by the U.S. Administration against Yemenis is the kidnapping of aged sheikh Mohammed Al-Moayyad and his companion Mohammed Zayed on baseless and inauthentic charges. They were arrested on false speculations fabricated by an agent who burnt himself over unfulfilled promises made by the U.S. Administration.

All Yemeni people know that the 65-year-old sheikh has nothing to do with charges filed against him, and under which he was induced to Frankfort Airport in Germany on Feb. 10, 2003 as he was flying to the German city for medical treatment. He was cheated in a way violating the international law.

Al-Moayyad was subsequently transferred to the United States of America on Feb. 16, 2003 following a false report by an intelligence agent. Al-Moayyad has been known as a man of charity and humanitarian assistance for the needy and poor.

During his visit to Washington, President Saleh asked for the repatriation of Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan Al-Moayyad, a Yemeni religious scholar extradited from Germany to the United States (along with his assistant Mohammed Zayed), where he is serving a prison term after being convicted of supporting Hamas (but acquitted of supporting al-Qaeda).

Yemeni human rights organizations are agitating for the sheikh’s release on the grounds of declining health. The head of a national committee to free Al-Moayyad (who is popular in Yemen for his charitable work) notes that, since ‘Europe and the whole international community are (now) dealing with Hamas as an independent entity, why is it forbidden for Al-Moayyad?’ (quoted from the Yemen Observer).

Other Yemeni nationals suffer similar ordeals:

Saleh also discussed the case of Yemeni citizens held in Guantanamo Bay. Although official Yemeni sources claim that Saleh requested the release of all the Yemeni Guantanamo Bay prisoners, there are signs that Yemen’s government is not overeager for their repatriation.

In a March visit to Yemen, Marc Falkoff, a lawyer for 17 of the Yemeni detainees, revealed that he had obtained documents from the Pentagon showing that many of the Yemeni prisoners had been eligible for repatriation as far back as June 2004.

The Yemeni government justifies its inaction by claiming that the citizenship of some of the Yemeni detainees is under question. According to Falkoff, ‘Fully one-third of the Saudis are back in Saudi Arabia, more than half of the Afghanis are home with their families and every single European national has been released from Guantanamo.

Yet, more than 100 Yemenis remain at the prison’sitting in solitary confinement on steel beds, deprived of books and newspapers, slowly going insane’ (quoted from the Yemen Times).

U.S. officials claim that there are 107 Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo, while human rights activists cite as many as 150, but there is no doubt that Yemenis form the largest single group of foreign nationals detained at the facility. Although the government may be in no hurry for their return, reports of alleged torture practiced on Yemeni detainees in U.S.-run detention centers have inflamed anti-American sentiment in Yemen.

Source: Marebpress.net’),(5,’SILVER LINING
Donors and Yemen’s elections’,’Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi’,0,’I believe the donors to Yemen are really concerned about the fate of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2009. They have been watching the stuck dialogue and verbal attacks and counterattacks between the ruling GPC and the opposition coalition for over a year and a half.

The two sides seem to have reached a deadlock and this is clear from the exchange of letters between president Saleh and the opposition as well as the solo decision of Saleh to go ahead with the nomination of the elections commission representatives without any agreement with the opposition. The current 7-member commission said it would go ahead with arrangements for elections despite the refusal of the opposition representatives named by the ruling party to swear in and take over their jobs.

This situation has pushed the European Commission charg’ d’affaires to call on the opposition parties leaders to a meeting last week. According to the opposition, the European official expressed frustration that European Union elections team recommendations were not implemented and that EU would not support elections if the situation goes like this.

I think by naming the representatives of the elections commission and abolishing the elections law amendments, President Saleh would like to push the opposition into taking hard decisions including boycotting the upcoming elections and thus hold the JMP coalition responsible for any possible delay or cancellation for elections, presenting himself to the donors as a person who is serious about democracy and that it is the opposition that malingering that has pushed to this deadlock.

And for that he is forced to delay the elections because time is not enough for arrangements for the voting next April. This would achieve his objectives in preparing well for the poll as he needs time to heal the injuries of the Sa’ada war and the unrest in the south. This is because Saleh and his party know well that without the participation of the JMP, the international community and donors would not see any fruits for the elections.

I think the donors are keen to see elections run in due course of time as these elections would measure whether Yemen politicians are serious about democratization or not, taking into account that they come after the major success Yemen made in 2006 presidential and local councils polls.

I understand the donors are prepared to considerate a delay of the elections for a short period of time because they know well that there is no enough time left for arrangements for the voting. But, they are not ready to accept a postponement for over than a year but any longer delay would be a major hold up for Yemen’s emerging democracy.

The donors would assess Yemen’s democratic drive orientation on the basis of the next elections that would define their support to Yemen government. Any cripple for the poll means an ordeal to donors support. Therefore, it is time now for the donors to act and pressure the two sides to reach an agreement for Yemen and its citizens can not endure any further traumas.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.