Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon mark festival of Ashoura

The public rituals of Ashoura often fuels sectarian tensions in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan where Islam’s two main sects both reside. (File/AFP)
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Updated 09 August 2022

Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon mark festival of Ashoura

  • The public rituals of Ashoura often fuels sectarian tensions in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan where Islam’s two main sects both reside

BAGHDAD: Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon chanted, paraded and beat their chests on Tuesday as they marked Ashoura, one of the most important dates on the religious calendar, commemorating the 7th century martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein.
The symbols of Shiite piety and penitence blanketed major cities in Iraq, where Hussein was believed killed at the battle of Karbala, south of Baghdad, in 680 A.D.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people converge on Karbala, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, to observe the solemn holy day.
Shiites see Hussein and his descendants as the rightful heirs to the prophet. His killing at the hands of a rival Muslim faction embodies the rift between the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam and continues to shape the identity of the minority branch of Islam today.
The public rituals of Ashoura often fuels sectarian tensions in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan where Islam’s two main sects both reside.
Security forces were on high alert for any violence, as extremist groups that consider the Shiites heretics have seized on the occasion to mount attacks in years past.
In Iraq, the powerful cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has used the emotional religious occasion to stir up support for his movement, deepening the country’s inter-Shiite divisions. Unable to form a government, Iraq descended further into political chaos last week when thousands of Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed and occupied the parliament building. Their sit-in continues outside the assembly, making it impossible for lawmakers to convene and raising the specter of civil strife.
In the Shiite-dominated Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, Al-Sadr’s portrait hangs from nearly every door. Processions of men and boys expressed extreme fervor in the Ashoura rituals of self-flagellation on Tuesday. They beat their heads and chests in unison and whipped themselves with chains to the point of bleeding.
“We inherited this from our fathers and grandfathers,” said participant Hamza Abdul-Jalil. “God willing, we will continue on this path.”
In Lebanon, processions shut down Shiite areas across the country and Beirut’s biggest suburb.

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Swedish MEP cuts hair during speech in solidarity with Iranian women

Updated 4 sec ago

Swedish MEP cuts hair during speech in solidarity with Iranian women

  • "Until the women of Iran are free we are going to stand with you," Iraqi-born Abir Al-Sahlani said in the parliament in Strasbourg

BRUSSELS: A Swedish member of the European Parliament lopped off her hair during a speech in the EU assembly in solidarity with anti-government demonstrations in Iran ignited by the death in morality police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
“Until Iran is free, our fury will be bigger than the oppressors. Until the women of Iran are free we are going to stand with you,” Iraqi-born Abir Al-Sahlani said in the parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday evening.
Then, taking a pair of scissors, she said “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” — Kurdish for “Woman, Life, Freedom” — as she snipped off her ponytail.
Leading French actresses including Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert have also cut locks of hair in protest over Amini’s death after she was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 13 for “inappropriate attire.”
Iran’s clerical rulers have been grappling with the biggest nationwide unrest in years since her death and protests have spread abroad including London, Paris, Rome and Madrid in solidarity with Iranian demonstrators.


Palestinian killed by Israeli army in West Bank: Palestinian ministry

Updated 05 October 2022

Palestinian killed by Israeli army in West Bank: Palestinian ministry

  • Statement: Alaa Zaghal ‘died of a bullet wound to the head fired by the occupation (Israeli) army’

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian was shot dead and at least two others injured Wednesday by Israeli forces during an operation near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Alaa Zaghal, 21 “died of a bullet wound to the head fired by the occupation (Israeli) army in Deir Al-Hatab, east of Nablus,” a statement read.


Syria reports 39 dead in cholera outbreak

Updated 05 October 2022

Syria reports 39 dead in cholera outbreak

DAMASCUS: Syria’s health ministry has recorded 39 deaths from cholera and nearly 600 cases in an outbreak spreading in the war-ravaged country that the United Nations warned is “evolving alarmingly.”
A total of 594 cases have been recorded across 11 of its 14 provinces since late last month, the health ministry said late Tuesday.
“The situation is evolving alarmingly in affected governorates and expanding to new areas,” the World Health Organization warned Tuesday.
Most of those who have died are in the northern province of Aleppo, and it was not immediately clear if the dead were included in the overall case tally.
It is the first major outbreak of cholera in Syria in over a decade.
The extremely virulent disease is generally contracted from contaminated food or water, and causes diarrhea and vomiting.
It can spread in residential areas that lack proper sewerage networks or mains drinking water.
The disease is making its first major comeback since 2009 in Syria, where nearly two-thirds of water treatment plants, half of pumping stations and one-third of water towers have been damaged by more than a decade of war, according to the United Nations.
The source of the latest outbreak is believed to be the Euphrates River which has been contaminated by sewage pollution.
Reduced water flow due to drought, rising temperatures and dams built by Turkey have compounded the pollution problem.
Despite the contamination, over five million of Syria’s about 18 million people rely on the Euphrates for their drinking water, according to the UN.
The latest outbreak is especially alarming for overcrowded displacement camps that have little access to clean water and sanitary products.
Cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, according to the WHO, but many of those infected will have no or mild symptoms.
It can be easily treated with oral rehydration solution, but more severe cases may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics, according to the WHO.
Worldwide, the disease affects between 1.3 million and four million people each year, killing between 21,000 and 143,000 people.


Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

Updated 05 October 2022

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

  • The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people

TEHRAN: Iran’s judiciary has opened an investigation into the death of a teenage girl, who was reportedly killed during protests over the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since Amini died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people — mostly protesters but also members of the security forces.
“A case has been filed in the criminal court to investigate the cause of Nika Shakrami’s death,” Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency late Tuesday.
“An order to investigate the case has been issued and necessary measures are being taken in this regard,” he added.
Earlier, the prosecutor said 400 protesters were released from prison “on condition of not repeating their actions.”
He stressed, however, that those “who acted against national security” will be dealt with “decisively, seriously and without leniency.”


Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’

Updated 05 October 2022

Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’

  • Britain’s foreign ministry had summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires over crackdown on protests

DUBAI: Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran in reaction to “interventionist comments” from the British foreign ministry, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported on Wednesday.
“The British side, by issuing unilateral statements, shows that it has a role in the belligerent scenarios of terrorists active against the Islamic Republic,” the director general of Western Europe at Iran’s foreign ministry added, after saying that London’s remarks on Iran’s internal affairs were “based on fake and provocative interpretations.”
Britain’s foreign ministry said on Monday it had summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires, Iran’s most senior diplomat in Britain, over the crackdown on protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody.
The British envoy in Tehran was summoned on Tuesday.
The Iranian official added Tehran will consider possible options in response to any unusual actions from Britain.
A 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 by the morality police in Tehran for wearing “unsuitable attire.”

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