Iran regime criticized for coronavirus response as Shiite pilgrim ‘shrine licking’ videos emerge

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Several videos have been released in the past week of worshippers licking and kissing shrines at holy sites in the Iranian cities of Qom and Mashhad. (Screenshot/Twitter)
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Another video shows a young boy licking and kissing the door of a shrine while an older man films and encourages the child. (Screenshot/Twitter)
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A medic treats a patient infected with coronavirus at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
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Updated 03 March 2020

Iran regime criticized for coronavirus response as Shiite pilgrim ‘shrine licking’ videos emerge

  • Several videos have been released in the past week of worshippers licking and kissing shrines
  • Iran's government refuses to close holy sites amid coronavirus fears

LONDON: The Iranian regime has been accused of endangering the lives of its people by keeping holy sites open amid the country’s coronavirus outbreak after footage of Shiite pilgrims licking and kissing shrines emerged on social media.

Iran has reported more than 1,500 coronavirus cases to date, the highest number in the Middle East, and the official death toll of 66 is the largest outside of China, where the virus emerged in December.

Several videos have been released in the past week of worshippers licking and kissing shrines at holy sites in the Iranian cities of Qom and Mashhad.

The shrines attract millions of pilgrims every year and have remained open despite growing coronavirus concerns in Iran, with thousands touching and kissing them every day.

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejed shared the videos and tweeted that the regime is “endangering the lives of Iranians and the world” by keeping the holy sites open.

 

 

The New York Times reported a teacher from Qom as saying: “The smell of disinfectants has become my nightmare, the city smells like a cemetery, a morgue.”

While Saudi Arabia recently suspended access to Makkah and to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah for Umrah pilgrims, religious leaders and the regime in Iran refuse to close or restrict access to its holy sites.

FASTFACT

A plane carrying UN medical experts and aid touched down on Monday in Iran on a mission to help it tackle the world’s second-deadliest outbreak of coronavirus.

The chief of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, Mike Ryan, said Iran will need help to deal sufficiently with the virus, and health workers in the country have expressed concern that the death toll is much higher than the official figures, the UK’s Metro newspaper reported.

Some doctors and nurses said hospitals in Tehran, Qom and Rasht were overloaded. “Hospitals are full of infected people. We hear about hundreds of deaths,” said a doctor in Tehran who asked to remain anonymous. “We need more hospitals. The death toll will rise.”

President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed the claims and insisted that all necessary precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

Cleric Mohammad Saeedi, a representative in Qom of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, had previously urged pilgrims to visit the city’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.

“We consider this holy shrine to be a place of healing,” Saeedi said. “That means people should come here to heal from spiritual and physical diseases.”

Despite the outbreak, some worshippers have heeded his advice and remained defiant. “Stop scaring the people this much with coronavirus. Stop toying with people’s beliefs. Coronavirus is nothing in the Shiite shrines,” said a man filming himself at the Fatima Masumeh shrine.

“I’m going to lick here to take in all the coronavirus,” said a man in another video, before proceeding to lick the shrine.

A video from the city of Mashhad, where the Imam Reza shrine is located, showed a man licking the shrine and saying: “I’ve come to lick the Imam Reza shrine so that I contract this disease and allow others to visit the shrine with peace of mind.”

Another video shows a young boy licking and kissing the door of a shrine while an older man films and encourages the child.

The virus has now infected more than 89,000 people, killed more than 3,000 and spread to more than 60 countries, the latest figures on Monday revealed.


Lebanon sets out its claim in maritime border talks

Updated 29 October 2020

Lebanon sets out its claim in maritime border talks

  • A military source told Arab News: “The Lebanese side considers that Israel, through the border line it drew for itself, is eating into huge areas of Lebanese economic waters.”

BEIRUT: Lebanese negotiators laid out their claim to maritime territory on Wednesday as they began a second round of talks with Israel over their disputed sea border.
The contested zone in the Mediterranean is an estimated 860 square kilometers known as Block 9, which is rich in oil and gas. Future negotiations will also tackle the countries’ land border.
Wednesday’s meeting took place at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) amid tight security. An assistant of the UN special coordinator for Lebanon chaired the session, and the US Ambassador to Algeria, John Desrocher, was the mediator.
A military source told Arab News: “The Lebanese side considers that Israel, through the border line it drew for itself, is eating into huge areas of Lebanese economic waters.”
The Lebanese delegation produced maps and documents to support their claim to the disputed waters.
In indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel in 2012, US diplomat Frederick Hoff proposed “a middle line for the maritime borders, whereby Lebanon would get 58 percent of the disputed area and Israel would be given the remaining 42 percent, which translates to 500 square kilometers for Lebanon and 300 square kilometers for Israel.”
On the eve of Wednesday’s meeting, Lebanese and Israeli officials met to discuss a framework to resolve the conflict through the implementation of UN Resolution 1701.
UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col praised the “constructive role that both parties played in calming tensions along the Blue Line” and stressed the necessity of “taking proactive measures and making a change in the prevailing dynamics regarding tension and escalation.”