03/16/2021, 10.30
RUSSIA
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Covid forces Caucasus to impose burials against Muslim customs

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In the Kabardino-Balkaria region, the dead from Covid arrive in polyethylene bags and closed coffins, after body and coffin treated with chlorine. However, Muslims bury their dead by wrapping them in a sheet, placing them in the bare earth, with their faces turned towards Mecca. Only 391 victims in Kabardino-Balkaria although mortality in the region is up by 20%.

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A heated debate has broken out over the burials of people who have died of coronavirus, dividing the inhabitants of Kabardino-Balkaria.

The North Caucasus region belongs to the Russian Federation, and has a Muslim majority population. Despite the recent provisions of the national health authorities, the deceased from Covid are buried here in polyethylene bags and in closed coffins, after having been treated with chlorine. However, this is sparking strong negative reactions from Muslims, who bury the bodies of the dead wrapped in a sheet.

Already in February, the Memorial center, which deals with the defense of human rights, contacted the regional prosecutor's office to verify possible violations of the rights of the Muslim relatives of the deceased due to Covid-19.

The inhabitants of Kabardino-Balkaria complain about the failure to observe religious traditions, and say that in the hospitals and morgues in the area they are forced to purchase coffins. They are not even allowed to keep them open for farewell with the deceased.

According to Memorial representatives, the World Health Organization had already made it clear as early as March 2020 that the bodies of patients who died from the coronavirus do not constitute an epidemiological danger. The Russian agency in charge (Rospotrebnadzor) also allowed the dead to be buried in open coffins, but in the Caucasus these provisions are ignored.

Some inhabitants of Kabardino-Balkaria told the Kavkaz.Realii website that hospitals take advantage of the Covid emergency to bury patients who have died of other causes, such as pneumonia or heart attacks, on which summary treatment protocols are often applied in closed coffins.

A woman who lost her mother reported that she was even asked if she wanted a Muslim or Christian coffin, when it is known that Muslims do not use coffins and bury their dead by wrapping them in a sheet, and thus placing them in the bare earth, with their face turned towards Mecca. Sanitization with chlorine also contradicts the purification rules of the Islamic religion.

The spokeswoman for the health ministry of Kabardino-Balkaria, Elena Kushkhova, provided some explanations: the federal provisions are "only indicative, and in any case there is no formal obligation to bury Muslims in coffins; as a precaution the dead are treated and wrapped in polyethylene, and to avoid dripping of mortuary liquids they are placed in simple wooden crates ”.

Kushkhova claims that this procedure was agreed "with Islamic experts, who assure us that it does not contravene religious rules; relatives can wrap the body closed in polyethylene in a sheet."

According to official data, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, only 391 patients have died in Kabardino-Balkaria, although mortality in the region has increased by 20%, out of a population of just under one million inhabitants. The deaths from Covid are probably much more, but the processing of data is rather dubious throughout Russia, particularly in the Asian regions (the Caucasus is on the border between Europe and Asia), the most denial of the pandemic.

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