Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Sharjah officials disconnect electricity to enforce eviction of single men in illegal tenancies

Police and municipal workers acted after complaints about crowds of men in the city's Qadisiya neighbourhood

Police and municipal workers cut off electricity and evicted single men from a family neighbourhood following complaints from a resident about male workers.

Officials began clearing out Qadisiya following a call from an Emirati woman to a local radio station.

The Direct Line (Al Khat Al Mubasher) is a platform for Sharjah residents to share concerns with government officials.

Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah and a regular listener of the show, heard her concerns and issued a directive to remove single male residents - typically living in illegally-divided villas - from Sharjah’s family neighbourhoods.

Municipality inspectors, accompanied by employees of the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, began inspections on September 27.

I hope that everyone complies [to the order], including companies, by evicting the workers and moving them to areas designated for worker accommodation

Maj Gen Saif Al Shamsi, Sharjah Police

Workers said they were ordered to vacate their homes immediately.

Ali, 34, a taxi driver from Pakistan said he and his five house mates had no knowledge of the eviction orders until municipal officials arrived on Monday, told them they needed to leave and disconnected the villa's electricity.

He packed a mattress, bedding, two suitcases, a vacuum and a few other personal belongings into his car.

“It’s the first time they spoke to us,” said Ali, a father of two, who did not want to give his last name.

“They were very urgent... and said ‘go, hurry up’.”

"I’ll search for other accommodation," he said.

His house mate Mohammed, 22, said if forced to leave the villa, he needed more time to find alternative accommodation.

Police and municipal workers acted after complaints about crowds of men in the city's Qadisiya neighbourhood

“They didn’t give us any time to prepare, just told us to hurry," said Mohammed.

Ali and Mohammed are what is colloquially known as "bachelors", a term applied to workers who live in the UAE without their families.

Sharjah Municipality said it had given notice to the men. A statement, published on state news agency Wam, said "the housing of singles among families poses a direct threat to the families who live in that area".

"The municipality is issuing violation notices to the landlords and tenants who have been sub-letting their accommodations to bachelors and workers in clear breach of the Emirate’s laws," it added in a statement to The National.

"They are being served notice to immediately evict illegal tenants and bachelors from their apartments and villas in areas that are specifically meant for families.”

The municipality served notices to "immediately evict" people in 60 residences on the first day of the campaign.

Shamshu Deen from Afghanistan, the owner of Al Sharqan bakery in Qadisiya. Pawan Singh / The National
Shamshu Deen from Afghanistan, the owner of Al Sharqan bakery in Qadisiya. Pawan Singh / The National

Police officers accompanying municipal inspectors said the workers would be moved to alternative accommodation.

"As law enforcement, it is our duty to be present here with the relevant teams who are required to intervene and use force should there be any breach," said Maj Gen Saif Al Shamsi, commander-in-chief of Sharjah Police, in an video shared by the government on social media.

"I hope that everyone complies [to the order], including companies, by evicting the workers and moving them to areas designated for worker accommodation."

Despite the radio caller's complaint, families interviewed by The National said they had not heard of issues between workers and other neighbours.

“I don’t know where the bachelors live,” said Mohammed Haq, 62, a resident who has lived in the neighbourhood for decades. “Any bachelors around here are always at work.”

Some men expressed concerns about their wives and children going to corner stores at night. But women interviewed by The National did not share that concern, saying men kept their distance.

“If men see ladies, they go inside,’ said an Emirati resident in her 20s.

Qadisiya is a quiet neighbourhood of older single-storey villas, mature palms and winding sandy lanes where families keep chicken coops. The area is predominantly home to families of many nationalities, although workers and taxi drivers share rooms in its older villas.

Many of its Emirati residents have moved out over recent years to more modern neighbourhoods and government-funded housing in the suburbs.

"A lot of people have heard about the news," said Khaybar Khan, 46, a Qadisiya resident who drives a taxi to support his wife and six children in Pakistan.

As of Monday, he had not been asked to leave.

"The most important thing is what the Government wants," said Mr Khan. "I have never caused or seen a problem in my two years here.

"I just park my taxi, go inside and it’s never been an issue. We eat, work and sleep."

I have never caused or seen a problem in my two years here. I just park my taxi, go inside and it’s never been an issue. We eat, work and sleep

Khaybar Khan, taxi driver

Some of Al Qadisiya's best loved neighbours were considered bachelors themselves when they originally moved to the neighbourhood in the 1970s and 1980s.

Abdulrashid Fakir, 62, and Abdulrashid Abdul Ghani, 73, from Bangladesh and Pakistan, built their lives and raised their families in Al Qadisiya. The friends can be often found chatting outside the AEO Al Jalaf Laundry.

Mr Abdul Ghani, despite his advancing years, continues to work at the laundrette he has managed since the mid-seventies.

“I was a bachelor here myself for two years, then I married,” he said. “Before I was young and now I’m old and it all happened in this place."

"You can ask the locals, they all know me.”

Shams Uddin, a manager at a tannour bakery known for his nan bread and generosity, came to Al Qadisiya from Afghanistan in his late teens. The bakery has long been a community centre, although he does not allow loitering since the pandemic began. The scent of hot nan from his shop fills the surrounding lanes.

On Monday, he sat in discussion with his nephew Dil Agha and neighbour Mohammed Hassan about what constituted a 'bachelor'.

None of the men, aged 20, 29 and 45, considered themselves one.

Updated: September 30, 2020 09:16 PM

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