Laborers facing Harsh Conditions in Najaf

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Mohammad Karim Khudair, 13, quickly pushes his luggage trolley through the streets of Najaf. The small three-wheel trolley is loaded with the luggage of an Iranian tourist who came to the city to visit the Shrine of Imam Ali. Next to the bags, an elderly woman managed to squeeze herself onto the trolley.

Just like Khudair, many workers push their heavily loaded trolleys and race each other to the X-ray scanner at the checkpoint at the entrance of al-Sadeq Street in the old city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Baghdad.

These trolleys, pushed by men and children such as Khudair, fill the streets of the old city where vehicles are denied entry. This security setup forces visitors to rent trolleys to get their luggage delivered to their hotels or serve as a means of transportation for the elderly who cannot walk.

Khudair said that he came from the city of Samawah in al-Khoder region — which is administratively part of the Muthanna province, 145 kilometers south of Najaf — and that his father had sent him to Najaf to work, since he is the breadwinner in a family consisting of his parents, five younger siblings and himself.

Taleb Hamid, 40, said he came from al-Khoder region, too. He told Al-Monitor that he was forced to move to Najaf to work in order to support his large family following the drought that hit the agricultural lands in al-Khoder and in light of local agriculture's inability to compete with imported products.

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