Yearender: After another year of hardship, people in Middle East keep hope alive for better life

01 Jan 2022 03:09pm
People take part in the candle march on the Christmas Day in Beit Sahour near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on Dec. 25, 2021. (Photo by Luay Sababa/Xinhua)
People take part in the candle march on the Christmas Day in Beit Sahour near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on Dec. 25, 2021. (Photo by Luay Sababa/Xinhua)

Cairo, EGYPT - As people in the Middle East bid farewell to the year 2021, which left an indelible mark on them with continued bloodshed, raging pandemic and worsening economic hardship, they keep alive the hope for a better life in the new year.

In 2021, the never-ending conflicts in the Middle East region were defined by a deadly clash between Israel and Hamas in May and the ongoing war in Yemen. The Covid-19 pandemic continued to rage across the region, aggravating the economic crises in countries from Lebanon to Turkey; In Iran and Syria, the sanctions imposed by the United States continued to increase the suffering of their citizens.

Still, people in the region hope for a change for better as they embrace the year 2022.

"We're hoping that 2022 will be a stronger year than 2021. This is our hope, and we must maintain it. We wouldn't be able to continue otherwise," Fadi Daher, a lawyer in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, told Xinhua.


For most residents in the Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza Strip, the year 2021 left painful memories due to a bloody conflict between Hamas, the Gaza ruler, and Israel in May.

More than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the most deadly conflict since 2014, which also left massive property damages to the enclave with a population of 2 million, already under Israel's blockade since Hamas' takeover in 2007.

Mahmoud Abu Jibara, a Palestinian from the al-Shati refugee camp in northwestern Gaza, recalled that life in the camp nearly came to a full standstill due to the May 10-21 conflict.

"When it (the conflict) was over, we saw destruction, an uncertain future, and instability in many areas," Jibara told Xinhua.

Related Articles:

In Yemen, the raging battles between the Houthis and the government forces supported by the Saudi-Arabia-led coalition showed no sign of abating in the past year.

Yemeni children, the prime victims of the protracted civil war since 2014, almost have no concept what it's like to live in peace.

Jalal Hadawi, a nine-year-old Yemeni boy in the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa, said his first wish for 2022 is for the war to end.

"I wish we could have more places to play. I wish I can live like a child in any other country," said Jalal, when asked about his wish for the new year.


Years of wars, chaos and instability have worsened the economic hardship in many Mideast countries. The past year was no exception, as the U.S. sanctions, a raging pandemic and currency depreciations added burdens to local economies.

In Syria, which has been under the U.S. sanctions and lost control of major oil and gas fields in the eastern part of the country to the U.S. troops, many families faced a significant problem to find fuel for heating to get through the harsh winter.

Rami Saleh, a 30-year-old Syrian worker, dismissed the idea of celebrating the New Year this year, citing that the life for Syrians is so hard.

"We used to be in a celebratory attitude, but that's all gone as a result of the economic crisis," said Saleh, who has trouble in acquiring enough gasoline to heat his home despite working two jobs at the same time.

He mainly blamed the U.S. sanctions on the worsening economic crisis in Syria, which has been engulfed in a war for more than 10 years.

"It's tough to celebrate this year in the same way that we did before. The U.S. has put economic sanctions on Syria, robbing us of a functioning economy," said Ahmad Burjan, also a Syrian worker.

In Iran, which has also been suffering from the U.S. sanctions, the rising inflation and a bleak job environment continued to push up the living costs in 2021.

"My family had to deal with rising prices and the depreciation of the national currency. We had to cut back on our spending when it came to planning New Year's events and purchasing gifts for our family members," said Malek Hadi, a 43-year-old Iranian citizen living in the capital of Tehran.

In Lebanon, a worsening economic crisis caused by continued political instability, persistent power outages and sharp currency depreciation made life harder for more and more Lebanese citizens in the past year.

The Lebanese pound, which was pegged to the dollar at a rate of 1,500 to 1 in 1997, plunged to 28,500 Lebanese pounds for one U.S. dollar on the black market in mid-December. The prices of most items in Lebanon skyrocketed as they were mostly imported and paid for in U.S. dollars.

"The current economic condition prevents any festivities. Everything is quite expensive," said Bassam Ghandour, a Lebanese citizen in the capital of Beirut.

In Turkey, the Turkish lira's sharp slide, which lasted for most of the year, has driven up the prices of most products, food and utilities, and lowered the living standard.

"Dark clouds were floating in our country," Resat Yilmaz, owner of a gold jewellery store at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

He said the lira's slide hurts his business, which is closely related to the weddings, because "not everyone can afford weddings at a time when gold prices are high." The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in early 2020 and continued to rage in 2021, confined most people to their homes or home countries, and took a heavy toll on the service and tourism industries as well as the economies in the Middle East.

Approaching the year's end, the fast spread of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron triggered new alarms across the region.

Israel, the fist country in the region to detect Omicron, imposed travel restrictions to more than 10 countries while tightening restrictions in shopping malls and schools. Cases of Omicron were also reported in Iran, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt.

"We used to look forward to such occasions (new year), so that we could see all of our family and friends and go out... but there are a lot of things we can't do now," Lebanese citizen Farah Aboul Zolof told Xinhua.


Despite the painful memories and decline in living standard in a year that was plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic and economic downturn, most people in the Middle East still hope for a better future.

Almost all of the dozen of Yemeni children randomly interviewed by Xinhua in Sanaa said their top wish for 2022 is "peace." Abdul Yahya, a 13-year-old vendor at a Sanaa market whose school was blown up by artillery fire a few years ago, said he hoped the war would end in the new year so that he could return to school to finish his education.

Standing in front of a building in the Gaza City destroyed by Israeli air raids in May, Kamal Mahdy, a 10-year-old Palestinian boy, said he was happy that the war was over in Gaza.

"We want to live like the children in other countries, where we can play on the playgrounds instead of hiding from bombs," Mahdy told Xinhua.

Samaha Hana, a 29-year-old mother of three from the city of Rafah in southern Gaza Strip, said she hoped that a real peace will be reached with Israel so that the Israeli blockade will end.

Malek Hadi, who works for an Iranian car assembly company, hoped that the U.S. sanctions on Iran will be lifted, the Covid-19 pandemic will be contained, the inflation will be controlled, and the government will be able to provide more jobs in the new year, so to improve Iranians' living conditions and education for their children. - Xinhua, by Tian Ye