|Garbage collection, poor people's job to earn living|
|Baghdad - Voices of Iraq|
Tuesday , 08 /07 /2008 Time 2:12:46
|BAGHDAD, July 1 (VOI) – Every dawn, Um Faris and her 13 years daughter leave their house driving a cart dragged by a donkey. |
They go to a garbage yard where they use their gloved hands to collect useful garbage, despite the job embracing health and security dangers, as one of their colleagues highlighted.
Um Faris says that she has to leave very early in order to reach the garbage yard before Baghdad Mayoralty's garbage trucks and contractors' trucks that she deals with.
She also should be earlier than other garbage collectors, to win bigger quantities and better quality of garbage.
Her daughter, Huda, left school after learning how to read and write; to join her mother in garbage collection.
Um Faris is among thousands of Iraqis who practice this job throughout Iraq, particularly with their numbers having increased after the embargo that was imposed on Iraq by the UN in 1990, and the consequences of the U.S. invasion to Iraq in 2003, yet there are no official or semi-official statistics that show the exact number of this social category.
Abu Murtadha, a resident of al-Amil neighborhood (eastern edges of Baghdad) where garbage collectors mostly live, perceives, "People look at my job from a higher position; I feel it in their eyes."
"Despite this, I have not thought of quitting, because with this job's income, I have been feeding my family since the 1990s, when hunger almost forced me to become a thief or beggar," he told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).
"It is the better bad choice," he said.
"This job is dangerous, because gunmen prefer to plant explosive devices among garbage packs," he added.
"This kind of work takes place in an unhealthy environment, where garbage packs smell and harbor many diseases," he noted.
"We also have troubles with our competitors who work in the same field," he explained.
Sahera Mohammed, a Sadr City resident and mother of four, joined this job after her husband's death.
"My husband was a simple laborer, and he died in a roadside bomb attack when he was looking for a job," she told VOI.
"A neighboring family that works in garbage collection advised me to join this job," she said.
"I do not know what mine or my family's destiny would have been if i had not taken this advice, because garbage collection is better than begging, despite society not appreciating it, and considering us a burden," she proceeded.
"My older son does not go to school, but goes with me to work in garbage collection, while my three younger sons remain at home," she added.
"This job's income is good; at least we are not begging," she asserted.
Kamil Abdullah, a 17 year-old garbage collector, portrays an image that still disturbs him.
"In mid-2006, a group of gunmen came to the garbage yard and killed three of my colleagues, when security situation was deteriorating in Daura neighborhood," he told VOI.
"I quit garbage collecting after that, and started working in a smithy for a while, until the improvement in Baghdad's security circumstances encouraged me to re-join garbage collection," he said.
"Work starts everyday by dividing a garbage yard between the collectors," he explained.
"Each collector will have an area, and he cannot violate other collectors' shares," he added.
"Useful garbage that is collected is then sold to contractors," he proceeded.
"Those contractors may be connected to other, bigger, contractors," he noted.
"Each job has traditions, even garbage collection, and disobeying the traditions leads a laborer to expulsion," he said.
But, not all garbage collectors are keen to stay in this career, such as Abdullah, according to Abu Yassen, a 50 year-old garbage collector.
"Many garbage collectors quit this job and started working for Baghdad Mayoralty as cleaning laborers on daily basis," Abu Yassen told VOI.
However, some Baghdad Mayoralty's cleaning laborers practice garbage collection for personal interests.
Hayder Fadhil, a Baghdad Mayoralty's cleaning laborer; told VOI "We look into the garbage that we collect from houses, trying to find useful items."
"We isolate the useful garbage in separate bags, and sell it at the end of each work day," he said.
"This represents an additional income to our relatively low salaries that we get from Baghdad Mayoralty," he added.
"Garbage collection is a big business," he clarified.
"Sometimes there are biddings on garbage, and contractors buy a garbage truck's content by paying the driver to dump his cargo at a certain location," he said.
But Abu Riyadh, a garbage truck driver, is upset with what garbage collectors do.
"They spread garbage everywhere, looking for certain items; a matter that makes our job more difficult," he told VOI.
""It would be much better for everybody if garbage collectors wait at the major garbage yards, on the eastern edges of Baghdad," he said.
In spite of this, garbage collectors do not care, as long as they are able to make good money.
Abu Nahla, a 40 year-old garbage collector, told VOI "It is a profitable job."
"I make 20 U.S. dollar per day," he added.
Faris al-Obaidy, a sociologist, analyzes this phenomenon. "This job expanded during embargo years, and yet has not stopped."
"One of the main reasons that this job has been activated is that the importation of some raw materials, required for certain industries, has stopped," he told VOI.
"Recycling materials is not a phenomenon limited to Iraq," he said.
"Garbage collection is a global-wide activity that can even be found in advanced countries, such as the U.S.," he added.
"This job is linked to some private factories that cheat, and it is part of a network similar to a spider-net," he proceeded.
"Economic disturbance that started with the embargo in the 1990s, was the basis of this activity," he noted.
Despite al-Obaidy admitting to the decline shrinkage in this job after the toppling of the former regime in 2003, due to the ensuing open market policy, he perceives that an increase in prices "may expand this career which dies with more economic activities and job opportunities."
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