Islamic month of Muharram, a challenge for Iran during pandemic

By Artemis Razmipour

Tehran, Jul 29 (efe-epa).- Muharram, an important religious event for Shiite Muslims, has become a challenge for Iranian authorities due to the pandemic.

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and every year 10,000s of the faithful take to the streets of Iranian cities for several days to mourn the death of Imam Hussain.

The sacred festival is due to take place from 21 August this year.

It has led to disagreements between authorities, religious leaders and health officials in the country due to the risk of spreading Covid-19 infections.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a July 25 session of the country’s coronavirus committee that mourning events will be held in all cities and towns “under any state” of risk from the virus.

He ordered that ceremonies and processions be carried out “in a glorious manner” but that social distancing by respected and masks worn.

The leader added that “no one can create a distance between religion and science”.

His statements came after the health ministry had expressed its opposition to the events, which always attract large crowds of people.

Health minister Saeed Namaki met with clerics to try to convince them that the ceremonies must be changed this year.

During the month of Muharram the streets are filled with faithful, especially at night, who beat their chests and whip their backs to express their pain, making it difficult for pedestrians to pass and causing heavy traffic jams.

Many houses prepare large quantities of food that are distributed among attendees, who form long lines to try it.

Farhad Hadadian is the director of the Ali Akbar Shrine in Chizar Square, northern Tehran, where more than 20,000 people attend Muharram ceremonies each year.

He explained to EFE that it is difficult to stop people from attending.

“Even if we don’t hold the ceremonies and close the halls, the people themselves will definitely show up on the streets,” he added.

“The president says that it should be celebrated in a glorious way, for which we need material support, such as tens of thousands of liters of alcohol and masks.”

Iran was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 298,900 confirmed cases and 16,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University in the United States.EFE-EPA


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