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On holiday of sacrifice, many Syrians cannot celebrate | THE JEENYUS CORNER

For Syrians mired in civil war, now is not a time for celebration.


By Salma Abdelaziz

(CNN) – Artillery shelling, water outages and food shortages, rather than presents and sweets, greeted many Syrians on the most important Muslim holiday of the year.

“There is no Eid here. What are you even talking about? How can you have Eid amid shelling? May God watch over us. We have rockets falling over us. The situation is horrific. Eid has no meaning for us,” Abu Fouz, a 48-year-old resident of Aleppo, told CNN.

Eid al-Adha, literally meaning The Feast of Sacrifice, is one of two major holidays in Islam. It commemorates millions completing the holy pilgrimage called the Hajj to Saudi Arabia. It marks the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

“During Eid, Muslims traditionally slaughter animals and give the meat to poor people. This is the communal aspect of the holiday to give charity, food and meat to the poor and needy. Due to the civil war in Syria, Eid is essentially suspended because the constant killing and violence results in a breakdown of society,” Akbar Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom, said.

About 19 months since anti-government demonstrations in the southern city of Daraa sparked a nationwide uprising and a military crackdown to quash dissent, the ancient country is still mired in a civil war that has claimed the lives of an estimated 30,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Markets across the Middle East are generally flooded with customers as families purchase new clothes and gifts for relatives and prepare large feasts for Eid al-Adha, but the Syrian civil war has destroyed the country’s once-vibrant economy.

“We feel like we are in a large prison. Yesterday, the markets were attacked and many business raided by Syrian security forces. Dozens of men were arrested. We cannot celebrate with so many dead and missing and the constant shelling,” said Alaa, a resident of Idlib who refused to giver her full name for personal safety reasons.

The World Food Programme says that up to 3 million people are expected to be in need of food over the coming year and in areas of ongoing armed conflict, civilians lack basic needs such as electricity, water and food supplies.

“There will be no sweets this year. We don’t even have bread. People stand in line from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. just to buy a bag of bread, which now costs almost double,” Jelan, a college student in Idlib city, told CNN.

The Syrian government announced it will suspend military operations from Friday morning to Monday as part of an Eid al-Adha cease-fire, but “reserves its right to respond” to attacks.

“There are reports that the regime is planning to bomb Homs. Army defectors provided intelligence to the opposition that the Syrian government may use car bombs. So many civilians are very scared about Eid and what the cease-fire may bring,” said Saleem Kabbani, a member of the Local Coordination Committees in Homs.

The adha, or sacrifice, is the central tenant of Eid al-Adha, requiring all Muslims with the financial freedom to do so to sacrifice an animal. It’s typically a goat or lamb, and they distribute its meat to the poor. The tradition stems from Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God, who according to the Muslim holy book, the Quran, provided a lamb in the boy’s place.

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