Iran admits official virus toll is untrue

Residents wear face masks walk on a street after Iranian authorities made it mandatory for all to wear face masks in public following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease. (West Asia News Agency via Reuters)
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Updated 20 October 2020

Iran admits official virus toll is untrue

  • Real figures are higher, health chief says
  • Record 337 COVID-19 deaths in one day

JEDDAH: Iranian authorities have admitted for the first time that their official figures for coronavirus cases do not reflect the true scale of the outbreak.
The admission came as Iran’s daily death toll from COVID-19 again set a record, with 337 fatalities on Monday. The previous high was 279, last Wednesday.
More than 30,000 people have now died from COVID-19 in Iran, and the total number of cases rose on Monday by 4,251 to 534,631.
The real numbers were higher than officially reported, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said, primarily due to “testing and reporting protocols.”
Iran was slow to respond to the initial outbreak at the beginning of the year, when clerics encouraged pilgrims to visit religious sites in Mashhad and Qom despite evidence that the virus was already spreading, and it is now the worst affected country in the Middle East.
“In recent days, we have witnessed an unprecedented increase in mortality from the disease,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on Monday.
“The current situation is the result of neglecting to comply with health protocols, reduced use of masks and dangerous social behavior in recent weeks.”
The government has extended restrictions and closures in Tehran, where schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions have been closed since Oct. 3. Health officials have warned that daily deaths could hit 600 if Iranians fail to adhere to health protocols.
Mask-wearing has became compulsory in public in Tehran, where the infection rate has been highest, and there are fines for non-compliance. Authorities plan to impose the same restrictions in other large cities with high infection rates.

Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

Updated 25 November 2020

Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

  • The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz

CAIRO: The second Egyptian Aragouz Festival has opened on Nov. 24, at the ancient Bayt Al-Sinnari, in Cairo. The aragouz is a traditional puppet figure dressed in red invented by Egyptians to ridicule situations comically.

Khaled Bahgat, a professor of theater at Helwan University and the founder of the festival and the Wamda Troupe for Aragouz and Shadow Puppets, said the festival is part of the initiative to preserve the Egyptian aragouz, after it was recognized by UNESCO in 2018 as one of the most important Egyptian artistic elements. He said that he wants the Egyptian art of aragouz to reach the world because it is an ancient Egyptian art.

The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz.

The festival opened with a tribute to the great Egyptian creator Abu Al-Saud Al-Abyari in a reading of his story “Aragouz, Author and Idea,” which he published in 1953. Al-Aragouz was an important source of creativity for Al-Abyari.

The reading was followed by entries exploring how the art of aragouz shaped Egyptian comedy in the twentieth century.

The day closed with puppet performances of “The social media aragouz,” which reflected the impact of social media, directed by Ali Abu Zeid, and “The aragouz in the city,” directed by Nabil Bahgat.

On the second day, Reem Heggab will honor her father the late Egyptian poet Said Heggab, reciting one of his poems on the aragouz. This will be followed by two aragouz shows, “The Take Away,” directed by Mahmoud Sayed Hanafi, and “Aragouz, the Land of Myths.”

On Thursday, the theater department of the University of Alexandria will celebrate the aragouz with a lecture by Hany Abou El-Hassan, the head of the department, a workshop and a performance titled “Lorca and the aragouz,” directed by Nabil Bahgat and presented by the Wamda Troupe.

The performance honors the creativity of the Spanish poet and innovator Federico García Lorca, and will be held in the presence of the Spanish cultural attache.

The fourth day of the festival will honor the poet Fouad Haddad, whose son Amin Haddad will recite several poems from his father’s book of poetry entitiled Al-Aragouz. The poetry reading will be followed by a discussion.

Then there will be performances of “Aragouz Al Sima,” directed by Mustafa Al-Sabbagh, and “Al-Aragouz in Danger,” which deals with the greatest challenges facing the art of aragouz.

On the last day, the Faculty of Arts at Helwan University and the Department of Theater Sciences’ troupe will hold an open seminar with the department’s students to discuss ways to preserve the Egyptian aragouz.