Popular ride-sharing app halts service in territories at PA's request

Palestinian taxi drivers express relief over Careem's decision to halt services, while app drivers and users say they are disappointed.

An employee shows the logo of ride-hailing company Careem on his mobile in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: REUTERS)
An employee shows the logo of ride-hailing company Careem on his mobile in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Careem, a popular Middle Eastern ride-sharing application, announced on Sunday that it stopped its services in Ramallah.
“For the first time in the Arab world, and at the request of the Palestinian authorities, all Careem services in Ramallah have been halted,” a statement on Careem’s Facebook page said.
The ride-sharing application, which was the first of its kind in the West Bank, made its services available in Ramallah in mid-June.
While many Palestinians started to use the application over the past several months, the Palestinian Authority simultaneously cracked down on it.
For example, in the past couple of weeks, the PA Transportation Ministry and PA Police fined 22 Careem drivers and confiscated their driver’s licenses for ten days.
“Careem’s services are in violation of the law,” PA Transportation Ministry spokesman Muhammad Hamdan said in a phone call on Monday. “Item 59 of the transportation law makes that clear.”
Item 59 of the PA transportation law states that “it is illegal for a driver to transport passengers in his car in exchange for a rent unless” the Transportation Ministry has licensed the driver to undertake such action.
A Careem representative did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
The statement on Careem’s Facebook page, however, said the company is still interested in working with the PA to provide its services to Palestinians.
“We want to work hand in hand with all the relevant authorities to improve the transportation and informations technology sectors,” it said. “We hope that we will return to serve you.”
President of the Palestinian Transport Workers Union Khaled al-Nakhla said he was satisfied with Careem’s decision.
“We are very happy that Careem is no longer available to Palestinians,” Nakhla said in a phone call.
“They took away a large part of the market from us, which had major consequences for our monthly salaries.”
According to Nakhla, the average income of taxi drivers in Ramallah dropped by some 40% in the past several months.
In early October, the taxi drivers in coordination with the Transport Workers Union held a protest in front of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s office.
Meanwhile, many Careem drivers were disappointed that the company halted its services in Ramallah.
A 22-year-old Careem driver, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he wished the company would have continued its services despite the PA’s opposition.
“I left my old job to work with Careem. It was a great experience, which gave me an opportunity to make a salary like the people in Europe,” the driver said. “Now I don’t know what I will do for work.”
He added that he was surprised the company decided to stop its services in the Palestinian city.
“The Jordanian government has also pressured Careem to stop its services in Amman, but it has continued them there,” the driver said.
“I thought they would never stop them here, if they didn’t stop them there.”
In addition to the West Bank, Careem has also received push back from authorities in Jordan, who similarly say the company’s services violate transportation laws.
A group of Careem drivers are planning to hold a protest in front of Hamdallah’s office on Tuesday.
Careem users also expressed their frustration that Careem stopped operating in Ramallah.
“What a loss. If the people tried out Careem, they would know that it is in the public interest and benefits everyone... I am awaiting Careem’s return,” Esra Tayeh, a Palestinian from the West Bank posted on Facebook.
Other users criticized the PA for not accommodating Careem, asserting that its action against the company undermines innovation.
“What happened is against innovation and development in Palestine... I wish our government would ask itself why people emigrate outside of Palestine,” Jihad Abdel Karim, also a Palestinian from the West Bank, said.