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Rooftop majlis: Beirut commemorates Ashoura amid coronavirus | News



Beirut, Lebanon – About 20 women in black scarves and robes walked into a building in the southern Dahiyeh suburb of Beirut on Saturday evening.

The women, from teens to grandmothers, climbed up to the rooftop to join an hour-long mourning ceremony in commemoration of the seventh-century death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Saturday evening marked the 10th night of the Islamic month of Muharram, the Ashoura. 

This year, Ashoura fell within a 17-day, nationwide lockdown imposed by the Lebanese government on August 21, following a spike in coronavirus cases and fatalities in the wake of a massive explosion at Beirut’s port earlier this month.

An organiser arranges platters of food for attendees of the ceremony [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Lebanon, with 16,275 reported cases and 155 deaths, has banned all social gatherings, closed businesses and shops, and imposed a night-time curfew.

The restrictions mean there have been no street processions or large public gatherings for Ashoura.

So, several people in the neighbourhood decided to hold downsized gatherings on their rooftops and balconies instead.

“The communal element of Ashoura is very important to us,” said 24-year-old Fatima Kanso. “So, we came up with the idea of holding an open-air rooftop majlis [gathering] on top of four buildings in the block in order to come together while also respecting the restrictions.”

Adamant to commemorate

Fatima stood guard at the doorway to the rooftop, checking each woman’s temperature, disinfecting their hands, and ensuring they wore face masks before showing them to their seats.

As the organiser, she arrived early to arrange 35 plastic chairs – the maximum they could host at the event – in a manner that ensured social distancing.

“We are adamant to hold our mourning ceremonies no matter what the circumstance,” explained Fatima as she handed a younger family member bags with cakes and a drink to place on each chair.

“We await Muharram every year so the thought of holding a solitary majlis at home this time was very painful,” she said. “When our leaders ordered us to adhere to the restrictions, we had to find a way to do it while respecting their instructions.”

Ashoura amid COVID19

Fatima Kanso and her neighbours kept a safe social distance between chairs on their rooftop. [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Before the start of Muharram, Lebanon’s two main Shia movements, Hezbollah and Amal, told their followers to abide by stay-at-home measures, advising against all public gatherings.

In a televised speech, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah urged compliance with coronavirus-related restrictions, encouraging his followers to commemorate Imam Hussein’s death at home or via livestreaming.

‘Double the sorrow’

Along with her mother-in-law, Um Ahmad, Fatima had spent the day cooking meals for the poor and preparing a wheat and chicken dish for the attendees.

As she arranged platters of pastries on a table, her husband Ahmad Kanso, a locally known Muharram poetry reciter who came to lead the ceremony, set up the speaker system in a small room on the roof.

He explained that the speakers allowed the four female-only rooftop gatherings to follow his recitation and other neighbours to take part from their balconies.

“I’m used to being in a hall filled with thousands of people, especially on this night,” said the 26-year-old.

“Although we feel double the sorrow this year – sorrow over the death of Imam Hussein and sorrow over not being able to mourn together – it is a blessing to still be gathering like this.”

Ashoura amid COVID19

Ahmad Kanso, a popular Muharram poetry reciter in his neighbourhood, preparing to lead the ceremony [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Every night, the young reciter started his ceremony with a poem and then a short story narrating the life and death a prominent figure in Shia Islam who was killed during the battle of Karbala.

For Muslims, the death of Imam Hussein is a symbol of resistance against injustice and oppression.

By the time Ahmad wrapped up, several women were bent over, sobbing into their sleeves.

‘Serious responsibility’

Like many others, 45-year-old Abeer al-Aseely, who attended the ceremony, found the lack of public gatherings this year painful but realised that efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus were more important.

“For the first time in my life, I’m not attending the usual large street processions and public gatherings,” said al-Aseely. “It’s painful, but our health and safety is more important.”

While calls to adhere to strict health guidelines have fallen on deaf ears in some countries in the region, including Iraq, which saw throngs of Shia Muslims flock to the shrines of Imam Hussein in Karbala, the situation in Lebanon has been relatively contained.

“Some people circumvented the coronavirus-related restrictions over the past 10 days, but for us, it’s been a huge responsibility to do everything right,” said al-Aseely. “It’s only right to social distance, or cancel the ceremonies altogether.”

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‘Kuwait is unsafe for women’: Outrage over brutal murder of woman | Women’s Rights News




The Murder of a woman in Kuwait sparks calls for stricter punishment for perpetrators after she was killed by a man released on bail.

The horrific murder of a woman in Kuwait this week has sparked outrage on social media with calls for stricter punishment for perpetrators of violent crime against women in the country.

On Tuesday, Farah Hamza Akbar was killed by a man against whom she had previously filed two cases for harassment which followed her family’s alleged refusal to his marriage proposal.

The perpetrator, arrested and later released on bail, kidnapped the woman and stabbed her to death. Her body was left outside a hospital south of Kuwait City, according to the interior ministry.

Within hours of the murder, to which the man later confessed, the police arrested him, the ministry said in a statement.

A video circulating on social media showed the victim’s sister crying and screaming that she had notified authorities of the threat he posed, but said her pleas were ignored.

“That is what we got, exactly what we said, that he is going to kill her, and he killed my sister. Where is the government? We told the judge. I told you many times he would kill her, and now she’s dead,” she said in the footage.


Within hours, the victim’s name was trending on Twitter in Kuwait as hundreds expressed outrage over the crime.

Kuwaiti fashion blogger Ascia al-Faraj shared the video of the distraught sister, saying that Kuwait was “not safe for women”.

Several social media users held authorities responsible, saying that they should not have released the perpetrator after he had threatened to kill the woman multiple times.

The murder comes two months after Kuwaiti activists launched a nationwide campaign to end sexual harassment and violence against women.

The campaign brought forward dozens of testimonies from women in Kuwait about being stalked, harassed or assaulted, mainly from the Instagram account “Lan Asket”, Arabic for “I will not be silent”.

Al-Faraj, the blogger, released an explosive video at the time of the campaign, saying there was a “problem” in the country.

“Every time I go out, there is someone who harasses me or harasses another woman in the street,” she said in a video after a vehicle sped up to “scare” her while she was walking to her car.

“We have a problem of harassment in this country, and I have had enough.”

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Gov’t Promises to Mend Relationship with NGOs




The Minister for Internal Affairs General Jeje Odongo has dismissed claims that Government is currently not at the best of terms with Non-Governmental Organizations and embarked on policies aimed at suppressing them.

Speaking at the launch of a book titled ‘Uganda’s Civil Society’ in Kampala, Odongo noted that while some things might not have moved on well between Government and some NGOs, the former is willing to address these issues so that the two parties can continue operating hand in hand.

“I would like to assure you that Government in the process of regulating this field through the NGO bureau. Government doesn’t have any sinister motives but is focused on improving the sector.”

As the line minister, Odongo vowed to ensure that the relationship between Government and these Organizations is improved to the extent that where there is a need, government will be ready to come in and support them.

The new book, which contains crucial information about these bodies, Odongo said, will be of great importance to various stake holders.

Stephen Okello the head of the NGO Bureau applauded the author and financer of this publication, saying it had come at a time when the country lacks a one stop center as far as operations of NGOs in the country is concerned.

“This book is very important because it’s going to spark off discussions on issues affecting CSOs; therefore, I ask everyone to spare time and read it.”

Joel Senyonyi the spokesperson for National Unity Platform (NUP) asked Government to stop referring to its critiques as enemies of the state or Agents of Europeans because they do all this as a result of love for their nation.

Sarah Bireete the Executive Director for Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) noted that the Government is more comfortable with them sensitizing people on Sanitation matters than issue of Governance issues.

The post Gov’t Promises to Mend Relationship with NGOs first appeared on ChimpReports.

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Taking a knee, lifting fist to be punished at Tokyo 2020 Olympics | Black Lives Matter News




Against the backdrop of the BLM movement protesting racial injustice, calls increased for change to IOC rule.

Taking a knee during the Tokyo Olympics or lifting a fist in support of racial equality will be punished as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) maintained its ban on athletes’ protests inside stadiums, at ceremonies and on podiums.

The IOC’s Rule 50 forbids any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in venues and any other Olympic area and the Games body concluded the rule should be maintained following an athlete consultation.

Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement against racial injustice, calls have increased in recent months for a change to that rule that would allow athletes to protest.

Some international federation chiefs, including World Athletics’ President Sebastian Coe, have said athletes should have the right to make gestures of political protest during the Games.

The IOC’s Athletes’ Commission chief Kirsty Coventry, who led a review of the rule, said 70 percent of the athletes consulted were against any protests within the fields of play or the podiums.

“I would not want something to distract from my competition and take away from that. That is how I still feel today,” Coventry, a former Olympic swimming champion for Zimbabwe, said in an online presentation of the Rule 50 consultation results.

Coventry said there were a series of recommendations approved by the IOC’s Executive Board on Wednesday, including providing clarity on sanctions, more information about Rule 50, a change of wording of the Olympic Oath with messages on inclusion, and producing athlete apparel with inclusive messaging.

The IOC’s recommendations are the result of a consultation process that started in June 2020 and involved more than 3,500 athletes.

The Tokyo Olympics, delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, kicks off on July 23.

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