Lebanon News

Lawmakers, officials call for relocation of Souk al-Ahad

A general view of the empty stalls at Souk al-Ahad in Beirut, June 24, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lawmakers and officials joined the Sin al-Fil Municipality Monday in calling for the removal of the popular Souk al-Ahad weekend market that for years has been operating near the Beirut River. Souk al-Ahad, Arabic for “Sunday’s market,” is a public, local flea market that operates on weekends, where sellers peddle a wide variety of items, including clothes, accessories and antiques - used and new - in addition to food and home supplies.

The Sin al-Fil Municipality has long called for the souk to be moved to another location, in Beirut’s Karantina, closer to the sea, a municipality source told The Daily Star. The source added that this is now possible since an agreement by the area’s political parties is reflected through the MPs’ visit and support.

The source claimed that traffic on roads surrounding the market increases from Friday - which is when the owners of stalls in the souk begin bringing in their merchandise - to Sunday, blocking a main road connecting Ashrafieh to Sin al-Fil.

Mount Lebanon Gov. Mohammad Mekkawi said there were “many reasons” for Souk al-Ahad to be moved to a “more appropriate” place. “Its economic- and security-related harm on the area exceeds its benefits, in addition to being illegitimate,” he claimed.

Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab said he supported the municipality’s decision to call for an alternative for the merchants. Metn MP Ibrahim Kanaan, who along with Bou Saab belongs to the Free Patriotic Movement, said the market’s issue was that of “respecting the laws.”

Kataeb Party leader and Metn MP Sami Gemayel said the market’s removal would be a “big gift” to the people of Sin al-Fil.

The market area in Karantina, managed by a state-run establishment, was founded in 1995 and operated for over a year before shutting, according to the establishment’s current director-general, Ziad Shayya.

Shayya told The Daily Star that many people, including those who operated stalls in Souk al-Ahad, have filed to operate a shop in the Karantina market, which would be ready in about a month.

For a spot in Karantina, Shayya said the monthly rent is LL20,000 ($13.25) a square meter and that the applicant must be Lebanese and sell his or her merchandise according to the market’s divisions.

Earlier this month, the vendors staged a protest outside the market, refusing its removal. They held signs saying “we refuse to let our children starve.” Others held photocopies of their IDs, captioned, “I am a merchant in Souk al-Ahad, I am Lebanese,” in response to claims that the vendors are not Lebanese.

However, at least some non-Lebanese vendors man stalls at the market, and would therefore be prevented from renting a space in Karantina.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 25, 2019, on page 2.




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