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JORDAN: As hunger increases, so does anger

May 18, 2008 | 11:39 am

Hunger ate away at his pride and honor.

Abdullah Eid Hadid, 74, has found that his retirement salary isn't nearly enough to make ends meet in these hard times, especially not in Jordan, where prices are skyrocketing.

Hadid"In 2007, we suffered," he said, the creases of age surrounding his eyes like cracks in the desert. "But 2008 is breaking our back. This country is becoming like an ocean. The big fish are eating the little fish."

The anger was palpable among all those interviewed for today's front-page article about how food prices were fueling resentment and extremism in the Middle East as well as undermining U.S. goals for the region. But Hadid's story was perhaps the saddest. He'd given his life and youth to protect Jordan as a policeman and a soldier, first donning a military uniform at age 14. He defended his country during its wars of the past decades.

Now, he, his wife and his sole unmarried daughter subsist on about $202 a month, as prices for everything seem to triple or quadruple. "I don't know what I should pay -- my electricity bill or my gas bill or to buy food," he said.

He is going hungry. Each member of his household used to eat one loaf of pita bread a day. Now it's a half each day. They eat meat perhaps once every two months and chicken, often the protein of the poor in the Middle East, perhaps once or twice a month.

Still, his anger is not enough to consider rising up against the Jordanian governmnet.

"We built this country," he said. "We can never betray it. If you drink water from a well, do you spit in it?"

What about his three sons, all of whom live in Jordan and struggle to make ends meet on fixed salaries? Would they rise up against Jordan?

He fell silent. "I can't speak for my sons," he said.

Borzou Daragahi in Amman, Jordan

Photo: Abdullah Eid Hadid, 74, found that his retirement salary wasn't nearly enough to make ends meet. Credit: Borzou Daragahi / Los Angeles Times

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, the war in Iraq and the frictions between the West and Islam. You can subscribe by registering at the website here, logging in here and clicking on the World: Mideast newsletter box here.

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