Afghans throng markets ahead of Muslim holiday despite coronavirus fears

People shop for festive goods in preparation for Eid Al-Fitr in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Afghans throng markets ahead of Muslim holiday despite coronavirus fears

  • Afghanistan had recorded 9,216 cases of COVID-19
  • The highest number of cases has been in Kabul

KABUL: Kabul’s markets were teeming on Friday in the countdown to the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr as Afghans disregarded government safety guidelines to contain rising coronavirus infections across the country.
Afghanistan had recorded 9,216 cases of COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the virus, and 205 deaths as of Friday, the health ministry said. The highest number of cases has been in Kabul, a city of six million that has been under a lockdown of varying intensity since March 28.
“It’s almost two months that Afghans have been in quarantine and surely everyone has suffered a lot during this period,” Ghulam Hussain, a Kabul resident at one busy market, told Reuters.
Prices for everything in the market have shot up during the lockdown, he added.
Two of the largest markets in the heart of Kabul visited by Reuters were packed, with most shoppers not wearing masks or gloves and not observing social distancing rules.
“I admit that everyone should observe the hygiene (guidelines) and follow the government and doctors’ advice, but what about the attacks and killings that are happening in our country and claim the lives of our people daily?” asked Abdul Saleem, another shopper.
While there has been a partial relaxation of the lockdown, with Kabul’s local administration also announcing fresh guidelines for residents in the lead-up to Eid on Friday, people have been ignoring appeals to respect social distancing.
The Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, will be observed either on Saturday or Sunday in Afghanistan, subject to the sighting of the moon.
Most shoppers visiting markets were looking for dried foods to make traditional Eid dishes and new clothes to mark the occasion.

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 31 May 2020

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.