Thursday, September 28, 2006

So Where's Madonna?

Busy hanging herself from Christian crosses while women of Arabia beg for a sip of water. You Go, Hag.

Women Suffer in Quest for Water

Hassna’a Mokhtar & Somayya Jabarti, Arab News

Women cluster around the window in an attempt to get a coupon for a water tanker. (AN photo by Hassna’a Mokhtar)

JEDDAH, 28 September 2006 — Women, some old and barely standing, others with their children, crowded the six-by-six room at the Aziziya Water Distribution Center here in the late afternoon on the fifth day of Ramadan.

Jamming up against a barred glass window, the women shoved and shouted struggling to reach toward a small circle cut into the glass through which male employees would pass them their coupons — water coupons.

A middle-aged woman, pregnant in her eighth month, beads of sweat trickling down the sides and front of her face said: “I’ve been standing here since 12 noon. I’m here because my 15-year-old son couldn’t get a coupon even after he waited for more than five hours. I came here in a taxicab. I’m still empty-handed.” Women mostly ranging from lower to middle class filled up the room with many young girls still in their school uniforms.

“Where is the press?” asked one. “The newspapers should come — see what’s happening and write about it,” another woman quickly added. In almost three hours only five out of 50 women were able to get water coupons. Out of those five women only two got their water tanks. However, obtaining a water coupon and matching it to a water tanker still does not guarantee water for your home.

“Yesterday, I sent my son and he got a coupon and a water tanker after hours of waiting,” Umm Rayan, in her mid-40s, said as she shifted her toddler to her other hip. “Halfway to our home, the driver forced my son out of the water truck in the middle of the street and drove off with our water. That’s why I’m here today.” Many water truck drivers leave the center with customers, but ditch them along the way and sell the water on the black market for up to three or four times the set price. Another customer at the water center, forty-something Umm Hamad, said that getting water often involves paying bribes to the drivers.

“If we don’t offer the driver of the water truck more money there’s a big possibility our water won’t reach our house,” she said.

While listening in, a woman in her late 50s spoke up. “We come in taxicabs alone, stand here alone and go to the truck drivers alone,” she said. “We show him the coupon slip and tell him to follow us.” Another woman added: “Whether the water-tank driver follows us home or not is something out of our hands.” “We count on Allah,” she added, pointing upward to the heavens.

Every time an employee passed by the coupon window, the crowd’s pushing, shouting and pounding on the barred glass would rise, as the women yelled: “Big tanker! Small tanker! We want water!” The employee grinned, seemingly amused, appearing indifferent. Supervisors were nowhere to be found on the premises. The onsite administration building was empty and locked.

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