Ferris wheels and tombs off-limits to Iraqis on Eid holidays

A deserted amusement park in Baghdad, Iraq. (Reuters)
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Updated 31 July 2020

Ferris wheels and tombs off-limits to Iraqis on Eid holidays

  • The virus has cost almost 4,700 lives and infected over 121,000 people in Iraq
  • It has also sharpened an economic crisis born of a slide in lifeline oil revenues

BASRA, Iraq: On the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, when Iraqis visit loved ones’ tombs and take children to the funfair, the coronavirus pandemic put both cemeteries and Ferris wheels off-limits on Friday.
The virus has cost almost 4,700 lives and infected over 121,000 people in Iraq, but it has also sharpened an economic crisis born of a slide in lifeline oil revenues.
“Civil servants’ salaries are being paid late, taxis or day laborers no longer have work, this has an impact on everyone,” said Ahmed Abdel Hussein, an official in Basra, a port city near the southern tip of Iraq.
“I’m thinking of all the children who this year will not get any presents because of the crisis,” he said on the first day of the feast, being celebrated with the country under curfew.
“Eid used to be the happiest day of the year before, now it’s a burden,” said another official, Falah, 35, who has two children and an elderly mother to support.
Shopkeepers and traders, who rely on Eid Al-Adha for a large part of their annual turnover, are also affected.
Abu Hassan Al-Bazouni, who owns a sheep farm in Basra, has seen sales decline despite the tradition of sacrificing a lamb for the feast.
Apart from high unemployment, “this year, confinement has prevented trade from one province to another, so sheep prices have increased,” he told AFP.
In a survey by the International Rescue Committee, 73 percent of Iraqis said they were eating less to save money, while more than 60 percent had taken loans to make ends meet.
Said Attiya, who runs a clothes store, said business was down 95 percent on last year.
For Eid in 2019, he hired eight vendors. This year, he is on his own, opening the store only five hours a day.
Many other stores in Basra, he said, have closed “because you can’t import anything and many can’t even pay the rent.”
For Ahmed Nejem, another resident, it’s hard to stay at home during the holidays, traditionally a time for family gatherings.
“This year, we’re not going out and we can’t even buy presents for the kids,” he said.
Animated messages, most decorated with flowers, others jokes, sent on social media apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook have taken the place of family visits.
In one such animation, a sheep, spared the slaughter because of costs, merrily sings: “We are celebrating with our masks. It’s Eid, I’m wearing my gloves. It’s Eid and I won’t kiss anyone.”


Turkish strikes kill three Kurds in Iraq

Updated 36 min 40 sec ago

Turkish strikes kill three Kurds in Iraq

  • Turkey launched a cross-border operation in mid-June against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq
  • The men were killed when they stopped outside a grocery store
ERBIL, Iraq: Turkish bombardment killed three Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, a local official said Friday, as Baghdad seeks to rally support to end Ankara’s offensive on its soil.
Turkey launched a cross-border ground and air operation in mid-June against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels in the mountainous terrain of northern Iraq.
“A Turkish bombardment targeted a car in the village of Rashanki, in Dohuk province, killing three PKK fighters, and injuring a fourth who fled,” said Mushir Bashir, the local mayor, of the bombardment late Thursday.
The men, who were traveling in an off-road vehicle, were killed when they stopped outside a grocery store, he added.
The attack comes as Iraq tries to drum up support from its Arab neighbors to form a united front against Ankara’s offensive.
Turkey defends its right to bomb the PKK, which it considers to be a “terrorist” organization, and accuses Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan of not stopping the group.
Earlier this week, two senior Iraqi officers and their driver were killed in a Turkish drone strike, prompting Iraq to summon the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad for the third time in two months.
On Friday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein contacted his Bahraini and Emirati counterparts, after calling the day before the Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi and Kuwaiti foreign ministers, as well as Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
Hussein pleaded for “a united position, forcing Turkey to withdraw its forces that have infiltrated Iraqi territory.”
Achieving that is a major challenge, analysts say.
Turkey, a major trading partner of Iraq and a regional heavyweight, has had several military posts in Iraqi Kurdistan for the past 25 years.
Now it is expanding its bases, Kurdish sources say.
The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. It has long used the rugged terrain of northern Iraq as a rear base to wage attacks on Turkey, which in turn had set up military positions inside Iraqi territory to fight them.
Since Turkey launched its offensive in mid-June, at least five civilians have been killed.
Ankara says at least seven of its men have been killed, and the PKK and its allies have lost 14 fighters.