Organized begging networks in Baghdad: Children are victims

Poverty and financial destitution are no longer the main causes of the spread of begging in the cities of Iraq. Instead, begging has turned into a profitable job which is not limited to the elderly or women. It has rather become dominated by children of all ages, who are spread in markets, traffic junctions, near worshiping places and hospitals, in a phenomenon the country has not witnessed before the 2003 US invasion.

Abu Fatima, a merchant in Baghdad, told The New Arab that “children beggars cannot be blamed because they are exploited by brokers and organized networks. This phenomenon has become a threat to drivers and passers-by after beggars turned into using manners that are not limited to asking for sympathy, but rather went beyond that and turned into threatening.”

He added: “The spread of these networks is raising everybody’s concerns. I am afraid of driving on the streets of Baghdad because of beggars and what they could possibly do if I refuse to help them. Some of them throw stones at cars, and others carry sharp objects like knives and blades.”

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Social researcher, Ruaa Al-Jubouri, says that “begging has turned into a job that everyone uses. While brokers earn millions through this job, children beggars get nothing but crumbs at the end of the day. Some of them have become drug and alcohol addicts and most of them have become street children exploited by organized networks.”

Jubouri explained to The New Arab that “there are several begging methods. There are those who ask for help under the pretext of having a child in the hospital in a severe situation. There are those who print leaflets or write on a piece of paper that they are displaced and in need of help to support their families. There are also women who stand near the checkpoints carrying babies they might have rent for begging purposes. In addition, there are those who sell chewing gum or handkerchiefs at intersections, or beg to wash your car.”

The researcher pointed to the beggars’ negative social impacts, especially that “most beggars are exploited by gangs and brokers who have relations that protect them from those who have religious or political powers.”

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In September, the spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ammar Moneim, said that the Council of Ministers’ vote on the bill against human trafficking and its submission to the House of Representatives to be legislated represents an important step towards reducing the phenomenon and its negative impact on society. This would contribute in reducing the phenomenon of begging in the streets and the exploitation of beggars by heartless people.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Saad Maan, revealed in press statements that “there are those who supervise the work of beggars in Baghdad, guide them and provide them with protection from the security services.” He explained that “security services cannot prevent the begging phenomenon once for all due to the spread of poverty throughout the country. However, they constantly warn beggars of getting near security departments and institutions.”

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