Old Town rules

Street vendors in Najaf face challenges amid municipality actions

NAJAF, January 13 — In the old city of Najaf, Al-Sadiq Street, a hub of commercial activity, is witnessing a persistent struggle between hundreds of street vendors and local authorities. Despite regular police efforts to remove their stalls and merchandise, these vendors continue to operate, aiming to attract visitors to the shrine of Imam Ali.

Engineer Leeqaa Al-Zurfi, the director of the municipality of the Old City, explained to 964media the challenges faced by the municipality in regulating Al-Sadiq Street. Noted as the largest and most significant commercial street within the Old City, Al-Zurfi mentioned ongoing campaigns in collaboration with the Emergency Regiment of Najaf to address violations by street vendors, shop owners, and stallholders. These include confiscating merchandise from those violating regulations. Al-Zurfi highlighted the difficulty in providing alternative locations for these vendors due to the high cost of shop spaces in the Old City, ranging from 30 million to 60 million IQD per square meter.

Hassan Raheem, a street vendor, told 964media that he is unable to afford shop rent and relies on street vending as his sole income source for his large family. Raheem described the constant challenge of evading municipality and police actions, temporarily removing his goods when security forces approach.

Similarly, Ali Kazem, another vendor, cited unemployment, lack of job opportunities, and difficult living conditions as reasons for choosing this line of work. He expressed pride in his profession but complained about the frequent police and municipal raids that result in the seizure of their merchandise.

Ahmed Hassan, also a street vendor, called for the local government and the new provincial council to allocate a designated area within the Old City for vendors. He suggested the establishment of an official market with affordable rents, which would allow them to work without the interference of the municipality and police, and to earn a living with dignity.