Turkey to allow mosques to reopen for socially distanced prayers

Kate Ng
Mosques in Izmir will reopen their doors to worshippers for Friday prayer on May 29: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turkey will partially allow congregational prayer gatherings in mosques to resume from 29 May as long as social distancing rules are followed.

The Turkish interior ministry announced the new rules surrounding mosques on Friday, as the country begins to ease lockdown restrictions after two months.

Two out of five daily prayers, as well as Friday prayers, will be allowed in mosques in 81 provinces. Anyone using the facilities to pray must wear face masks and stay apart from one another.

According to the Anadolu Agency, mosques will stay open for those who wish to perform prayers on their own.

Friday prayers can only be performed in mosques with courtyards or other open areas, which will be determined by local mufti’s offices, said the ministry in a statement. A list of mosques and open areas will be announced by 26 May.

No preaching will be allowed and imams have been told to keep prayers short. Toilets and ablution rooms, where Muslims perform a cleansing ritual before they pray, will remain closed to limit the number of common spaces available.

Congregational prayer gatherings have been suspended throughout Turkey since 16 March, as the outbreak began spreading there.

However, the country also imposed a four-day nationwide lockdown which came into place on Friday, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, to stop people from holding large family gatherings or visiting homes.

Eid marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. But in the country’s widest ranging lockdown measures yet, markets, grocery stores and butchers will only be allowed to operate from 10am to 5pm on 23 May, but will be closed from 24 to 26 May.

People will not be allowed to attend large gatherings and hold big meals together, or travel to visit family and friends, reported Al Jazeera.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a message on Saturday to Turkish citizens, encouraging them to observe the festival indoors to stop the spread of the virus.

He also thanked key workers, particularly healthcare professionals, who “worked selflessly” during the pandemic.

“May Allah allow us to observe the holy month of Ramadan with health, wellbeing and peace,” he added.

More than 154,000 positive cases of coronavirus have been reported in Turkey as of Friday, with over 4,200 deaths.