Turkey prepares a confined Ramadan, without social or cultural events

Ramadan in Turkey, which starts tomorrow, is much more than a month of fasting and prayer: it is surrounded by many social, political and cultural events that will disappear this year due to the preventive measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing one more celebration collected and distant than ever.

The biggest debate has been unleashed about the prohibition of the rounds of the drummers who wake up the entire neighborhood a good time before dawn, so that the neighbors can eat and drink something before dawn that marks the beginning of the fast.

These men stop at each door to receive a tip or threats from neighbors who want to continue sleeping, a custom that the authorities have canceled this year when they understand that door-to-door contact is precisely what to avoid during the pandemic.


Turkish mosques are closed from March 16 to all community events, so that nocturnal prayers will be held for Ramadan, known as "teravih".

"Teravih was an important cultural event, beyond prayer. The whole neighborhood came to the mosque, mothers, fathers and children together," says Sadettin Özkan, imam of an Ankara mosque, in conversation with Efe.

"Ramadan used to close the gap between Muslims. I fear that this year, as believers cannot meet in the mosque, that social distance will remain," laments the religious.


The public tables of 'iftar', the food with which the fast is broken at sunset, will not be seen this year, and they have become a social, political and even advertising act.

Mayors, parties and institutions often compete to fill the squares with tents where free dinners are served, something that stems from the charitable custom of offering food to those in need.

"We have developed a technological 'iftar': with one click on the municipal website you can donate 20 liras (about 3 euros), a sum that we complete from the City Council to send a package of two dinners to someone in need, on behalf of the donor, "Tunç Soyer, social democratic mayor of Izmir, told Efe by phone.

The gesture is not entirely new: the AKP, the Islamist party that has governed Turkey since 2002, has operated the 'Aló iftar' phone line for more than ten years, which can be called in Ramadan to order a free dinner at home.


Since travel between 31 provinces, which house 80% of the Turkish population, has been banned, family visits will not be possible in other cities either, something that not only caused huge caravans on motorways but also a high number of deaths from accidents.

Although the containment measures do not have an end date yet, Turkey hopes they will be able to relax before the holiday of the end of Ramadan on May 24.

This week, Turkish airlines have flown to 59 countries to bring home 25,000 Turkish citizens eager to spend Ramadan as a family, and while they will have to go through a 14-day quarantine, they will at least be able to reunite with loved ones at the party. final.


Between 15 and 20% of the Turkish population is Alevi, a monotheistic branch with their own temples that fasts on days other than Ramadan, but neither does the entire Turkish population identified as a Sunni Muslim comply with the fast this month: only 50% of Turks fast the whole month, according to a survey by the Konda company.

Under normal circumstances, in the western part of Turkey and in many neighborhoods of Istanbul, restaurants, cafes and breweries are usually open all month, with hardly any clientele.

This year, all entertainment venues will be closed.

But the pandemic has not only suspended the religious acts of Ramadan but also the cultural life that non-believers enjoyed during the numerous events that the municipalities used to organize that month.

Children and adults will not see this year, for example, the Karagöz shadow theater, intangible heritage of humanity registered at Unesco in 2009: without having any relation to religion or fasting, this Chinese shadow comedy is almost performed exclusively in ramadan.

But, so that the particular sensation of the month is not lost, a local Istanbul mayor's office has already promised to remedy the absence of drummers: at dawn it will send municipal vehicles equipped with loudspeakers to the neighborhood to awaken the neighborhood.

Ilya U. Topper and Dogan Tiliç


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