Disabled Lebanese beggar, dies a millionaire

52-year-old Fatima Othman, a disabled Lebanese beggar who lived on handouts in Lebanon, has shocked everyone with the small fortune she accumulated while begging on the streets in the capital Beirut.

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The body of the Lebanese beggar was found in an abandoned car in the city’s Barbir district by officers, who also discovered two bags containing five million LBP ($3,300) in cash. The frugal beggar had also stashed away 1.7 billion LBP ($1.1 million) in a savings account – which was uncovered after police found her deposit book for a local bank.

Brig. Gen. Joseph Musallem, director of the Internal Security Forces public relations division, told Arab News that 52-year-old Othman had died of a heart attack.

“Finding the money and the savings book was a big surprise,” he said.
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Othman was a well-known figure in the Barbir district. A photograph of the street beggar had won praise with its portrayal of a Lebanese soldier stationed at the nearby Barbir hospital helping her drink, because she was unable to use her hands or feet. The soldier was later commended by an army commander for his “compassion and humanity.”

Many on social media mocked begging in Lebanon and derided it as a lucrative profession. But nobody knew Othman as I knew her. On the pavement where the handicapped beggar used to sit — unable to move her hands due to a birth defect — she had the sympathy of people for decades. Othman did not talk or beg. She just looked with eyes full of sorrow at passing people.

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The Barbir district was close to the front lines during Lebanon’s civil war and was targeted by artillery, especially during periods of calm when its gold market was crowded with people. Othman was hit once with shrapnel, but returned to the pavement wearing a bandage. She kept watching us grow up, and we kept watching her grow older.


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