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Iraq Cemeteries Refuse to Bury Coronavirus Victims

Iraq Cemeteries Refuse to Bury Coronavirus Victims

Thursday, 26 March, 2020 - 08:45
Workers in protective suits spray disinfectants near the gate of Shalamcha Border Crossing, after Iraq shut a border crossing to travelers between Iraq and Iran (file photo: Reuters)
Baghdad - Fadhel al-Nashmi

Most Iraqis who have died from the coronavirus haven’t had traditional burials after many graveyards refused to receive their bodies.


Families of the victims are now facing a challenge of properly burying them amid the threat of being exposed to the virus and transmitting it to others.


The traditional graveyards, whether those designated for the Shiite community in Najaf or the Sunni sect in Diyala, do not allow for the burial of COVID-19 victims.


The Health Ministry has so far announced 30 deaths from the coronavirus. However, people are concerned that the virus could be transmitted through dead bodies.


Observers warn against the accumulation of bodies in hospitals in the event of a rise in the number of victims.


Malik Kadhim Ismail al-Shammari, 67, died from the disease six days ago, but his body remains in Ibn al-Qaf hospital because his family hasn’t been able to find a burial place. The family is appealing to the religious authority in Najaf and the Iraqi government to find a solution.


Shammari contracted the virus two weeks ago after he went to Kadhimiya city, according to the family’s neighbor Fadhel Abu Abbas. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Shammari was not in Iran, but it seems that the infection was transmitted to him during his visit to the city.


Abu Abbas explained that the family has been unable to bury the dead man after Najaf cemeteries and the cemetery of Mohammad Sakran in Diyala banned them from taking any action.


In addition, some 30 members of the family were put in isolation over fears that they had contracted the virus.


Head of the Baghdad Health Directorate in al-Karkh neighborhood Jaseb al-Hajjami criticized the authorities and people refusing to bury the dead.


Hajjami wrote a post on Facebook, attacking those who prevent relatives from burying their loved ones, especially that some family members are in isolation and the bodies remain in hospital morgues.


The official explained that the authorities have been trying to bury a coronavirus victim for the past week, after his wife and son were infected and hospitalized, and the rest of his family members are in isolation.


He asserted that there is no reason to reject the burial of coronavirus victims, especially that the process is secured medically and that the infection does not spread because the virus dies under the soil after a short period of time.


Member of Sadrist movement Hakem al-Zamili warned that refusal to bury the victims has led to the accumulation of bodies in morgues, noting that the disease could spread from hospitals to nearby neighborhoods.


Zamili explained that Baghdad governorate chose a place over 30 kilometers away from the nearest residential area on the outskirts of Baghdad to bury coronavirus victims.


However, locals refused despite specialists and medical staff asserting that the bodies will be placed at a depth of six meters.


He called on the government and the crisis unit to establish a safe place away from residential areas to create a cemetery for the burials.


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