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Rouhani Says Religious Ceremonies To Be Held Despite Pandemic In Iran

Mourners' procession in the Bazaar of Tabriz, Iran, September 12, 2019.

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday stressed the importance of holding Muharram mourning ceremonies everywhere, even in coronavirus hotspots, but also underlined that social distancing protocols including wearing masks should be observed.

Shiites around the world hold huge mourning ceremonies on the lunar anniversary of the death of Imam Hossein (Hussain ibn Ali), the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad and the third Imam of Shiites every year.

The Imam was killed in a battle against Khalif's forces near Karbala in today's Iraq on 10 October 680 AD.

The hardliner religious and political establishment is strongly against cancellation of religious gatherings and mass ceremonies.

Speaking at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Combat Headquarters the Iranian President said the "mourning or health" dichotomy does not exist and both have importance in the lives of the people.

"We held the Ramadhan ceremonies without negative impact. Some people observed the rites at home to the accompaniment of online and TV programs and some went to mosques. Ramadhan ceremonies did not cause a peak," he said.

In mid-June Iran's daily death toll that had remained below 100 since April 14 went up again and the country is now experiencing a second peak with official daily death numbers above 200.

Saying that the ceremonies should be held everywhere, even in red and yellow zones, in villages and cities, Rouhani said people must keep the safe distance from each other and avoid huge crowds and long ceremonies.

"The days and times of the mourning ceremonies can be shorter but the ceremonies will be magnificent as before," he added and urged religious figures and authorities to help with the observance of health protocols.

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Hashem Hashemzadeh Harissi, a member of the Assembly of Experts, told Etemad Online that "certain organizations and entities" should not force people to hold the ceremonies and put their lives in danger.

"There is no coercion to [hold] mourning ceremonies [for Shiite Imams]," he said and urged them to follow the advice of health authorities.