Syrian yogi ‘bent health rules,’ Bali officials say

Women wearing protective face masks pass an advertisement promoting awareness of the coronavirus outbreak at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Syrian yogi ‘bent health rules,’ Bali officials say

  • Yoga teacher facing deportation after ignoring virus restrictions

JAKARTA: A Syrian yoga teacher is facing deportation from Bali after photos of him hosting a yoga session involving dozens of foreigners surfaced online.

Locals voiced anger over the violation of social distancing rules on the Indonesian resort island.

Wissam Barakeh, founder of the House of Om Community Center, a yoga retreat in the Balinese cultural hub of Ubud, held the event on June 18. On Wednesday, immigration authorities in Bali said he faces immediate deportation.

“He is now being detained at Denpasar immigration office and will be deported on the first available international flight,” Arvin Gumilang, a spokesman for the immigration office at the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, told Arab News.

Gumilang said Barakeh ignored a health ministry ruling on large-scale social restrictions and a local Bali decree limiting the number of participants in an event to 25.

The yoga retreat is believed to have hosted more than 60 people, including many foreigners.

“He was well aware that the number of participants had exceeded the maximum number of participants allowed in the regulations, but he did not make any effort to cancel the event,” Gumilang said.

“The event violated health protocols by not complying with physical distancing rules, and those at the event were not wearing face masks,” he added.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Bali continues to rise daily. However, the number of cases on the island as of July 1 remained at 2.5 percent, or 1,527 of the national total of 57,770.

Photos of the event, which were deleted from the retreat’s Instagram account, were circulated online following Twitter posts by a Bali-based women’s rights activist, Jenny Jusuf.

The immigration office acknowledged that the event came to its attention following social media posts and complaints from locals, who have followed health regulations and refrained from conducting religious ceremonies that form a central part of Balinese life.

“I am sorry for what happened on June 18, it was not our intention, but what happened has happened, it is already a mistake,” Barakeh was quoted as saying by Kompas TV last week, after visiting Gianyar Regent I Made Mahayastra to apologize for holding the event.

The yoga teacher founded the center in June 2016. Its website describes it as a place “believing in the concept of community and going back to the tribe, to live in a world without borders, beyond race, color, religion or gender.”

Barakeh has created “conscious community centers” in Syria, the UAE and Bali, according to the website.


Afghan study offer draws Pakistani students

Updated 22 September 2020

Afghan study offer draws Pakistani students

  • Medicine gets top marks among 150 scholarship hopefuls

PESHAWAR: About 150 students from northwestern Pakistan traveled to Afghanistan this month to take part in tests that could win them Afghan government scholarships for higher education, particularly in medicine.  

The Afghan government pays for 104 scholarships for Pakistanis every year, the Afghan consulate in Peshawar said. 

“Medical education is expensive in Pakistan, so we decided to pursue education in Afghanistan,“ Sana Gul told Arab News.

Gul was among 150 young Pakistanis who left for Kabul last Saturday to attend the scholarship tests.

The group included 11 female students who want to study medicine. 

Gul said that the Pakistanis are hoping that security will improve in Afghanistan, and that peace talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government in Qatar will end with a power-sharing deal.

“We believe the peace process will end with good news, so we are traveling to Kabul,” said Gul, who is accompanied by her sister, Spogami. Both have passed 12th-grade exams.

Their father, Farman Khan, a teacher in the Mardan district, said that his daughters made the decision to go to Afghanistan. 

“We allowed them to decide for themselves and we will stand by them,” he said, adding that he believes the region is now safe “for those who seek education.” 

Arshad Mehsud from South Waziristan also traveled to Afghanistan for the scholarship test in the hope of studying medicine.

“There is no doctor in my village,” he said. “So after completing this degree, I will come back to serve the people of Waziristan.”