JAKARTA: A Syrian yoga teacher is facing deportation from Bali after photos of him hosting a yoga session involving dozens of foreigners surfaced online.
Locals voiced anger over the violation of social distancing rules on the Indonesian resort island.
Wissam Barakeh, founder of the House of Om Community Center, a yoga retreat in the Balinese cultural hub of Ubud, held the event on June 18. On Wednesday, immigration authorities in Bali said he faces immediate deportation.
“He is now being detained at Denpasar immigration office and will be deported on the first available international flight,” Arvin Gumilang, a spokesman for the immigration office at the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, told Arab News.
Gumilang said Barakeh ignored a health ministry ruling on large-scale social restrictions and a local Bali decree limiting the number of participants in an event to 25.
The yoga retreat is believed to have hosted more than 60 people, including many foreigners.
“He was well aware that the number of participants had exceeded the maximum number of participants allowed in the regulations, but he did not make any effort to cancel the event,” Gumilang said.
“The event violated health protocols by not complying with physical distancing rules, and those at the event were not wearing face masks,” he added.
The number of COVID-19 infections in Bali continues to rise daily. However, the number of cases on the island as of July 1 remained at 2.5 percent, or 1,527 of the national total of 57,770.
Photos of the event, which were deleted from the retreat’s Instagram account, were circulated online following Twitter posts by a Bali-based women’s rights activist, Jenny Jusuf.
The immigration office acknowledged that the event came to its attention following social media posts and complaints from locals, who have followed health regulations and refrained from conducting religious ceremonies that form a central part of Balinese life.
“I am sorry for what happened on June 18, it was not our intention, but what happened has happened, it is already a mistake,” Barakeh was quoted as saying by Kompas TV last week, after visiting Gianyar Regent I Made Mahayastra to apologize for holding the event.
The yoga teacher founded the center in June 2016. Its website describes it as a place “believing in the concept of community and going back to the tribe, to live in a world without borders, beyond race, color, religion or gender.”
Barakeh has created “conscious community centers” in Syria, the UAE and Bali, according to the website.