KRG marks start of Ramadan, urges public to follow COVID-19 health restrictions

Jalel Khayat Mosque in the Kurdistan Region’s capital city of Erbil. (Photo: Archive)
Jalel Khayat Mosque in the Kurdistan Region’s capital city of Erbil. (Photo: Archive)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The prime minister of the Kurdistan Region sent out a message marking the advent of Ramadan while urging the public to avoid traditional family gatherings associated with the month-long religious observance amid a spike in new coronavirus cases.

"On the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, we extend our warmest congratulations to all Muslims in Kurdistan and the world, asking God Almighty to accept everyone’s fasting and prayers and to bestow upon the people of Kurdistan more goodness, peace, and harmony," read a statement by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.

"As we welcome this month, " he continued, "we are inspired to call upon all Kurds to preserve their health and safety by fully adhering to health guidelines and preventive measures, which is the best way to protect ourselves from the coronavirus pandemic."

Barzani thanked "our distinguished religious intellectuals in Kurdistan, those who perform their supportive and important duty to the fullest to educate society about the dangers of the pandemic and urge the public to adhere to the preventive measures."

The Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs announced the day before that Tuesday would be the beginning of this year's Ramadan and that it had decided to reopen the doors of local mosques for the duration of the holy month of fasting, now closed as part of anti-coronavirus efforts.

Read More: Kurdistan Region announces Ramadan schedule, 'tight restrictions' to reopen mosques

Religious authorities in most Muslim-majority nations typically declare the exact schedule of the holy month, which can vary a day or so depending on visible stations of the moon, for all those within its borders. In Iraq, however, the faithful from different sects – or in this case, the Kurdistan Region – often end up beginning and ending their month of fasting on divergent dates. 

The Ministry said it had decided to again allow the general public to gather in mosques throughout the region during Ramadan after a meeting held by the KRG's Supreme Committee to Combat Coronavirus, but with new rules.

The "tight restrictions" that mosques and worshipers are required to follow include a limit that evening and Taraweeh prayers must last no more than a combined 35 minutes and that distributing food or beverages either inside and outside mosques has been prohibited.

Editing by John J. Catherine