29 September 2020
In the Arab world, police officers are taking action to control wedding parties. In recent weeks, some weddings have ended with police arresting party goers and giving fines.
These moves come at a time when coronavirus cases are rising in the Middle East.
Still, many couples are moving forward with their celebrations. But from the Palestinian territories to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), officials say traditional large weddings are helping the coronavirus to spread.
In Jenin, in the northern West Bank, Mustafa Khatib and six members of his band spent two nights in jail. They played at a crowded wedding party earlier this month. Police fined the group $11,000.
"This is not fair," said Khatib. "People will never stop getting married and will never stop holding parties."
Palestinian officials have forced many people to suspend ceremonies, said a police spokesman. Yet the punishments, detentions and infections have not stopped people from getting married.
"You plan to have a small wedding but then all your relatives and friends show up," noted Qasim Najjar. "This is our custom."
Najjar himself was recently married in the northern West Bank village of Deir Sharaf. The wedding party was broken up by police.
The celebrations can have serious results. Palestinian Health Ministry official Ali Abed Rabu linked over 80 percent of new coronavirus cases to large gatherings at weddings and funerals.
Indoor wedding spaces in towns like Hebron have become places where the virus has been known to spread, he said.
The Palestinian Authority has reported over 34,500 cases in the West Bank and 270 deaths from COVID-19.
Ahmad Tibi is an Arab-Israeli lawmaker. He told The Associated Press that the infections in Arab areas of Israel have risen from around 3 percent to 30 percent during the summer wedding season. Israeli citizens, unhappy after a failed first attempt at coronavirus restrictions, are starting to "disregard government instructions," he added.
Disregard is a term that means to treat something as unimportant.
When Egypt's wedding halls closed this spring, wealthy people moved their large celebrations to private homes. Working-class Egyptians took their parties to the streets, leading local police to break up the celebrations. But restrictions have eased as virus cases have decreased. Although Egyptian officials still warn of a possible "second wave," the government announced recently that weddings could take place outdoors and in some hotels.
In the UAE, a health ministry spokeswoman noted that close to 90 percent of new cases came from crowds at weddings, funerals and other events.
The Emirati government has increased its attention on wedding parties. Last weekend, officials ordered the detention of eight people who had thrown large parties without face masks.
Those arrested face prison terms of up to six months and fines of at least $27,226 each.
Some Arab couples are getting married and obeying health rules. Their wedding parties are different from traditional weddings, however. During the Palestinian Authority's lockdown earlier this year, Baraa Amarneh and Imad Sharaf got married near Hebron. They held hands while wearing latex gloves.
A mask covered up 25-year-old Amarneh's makeup. Just a few close family members came to their wedding.
"Without all the neighbors and friends, you're left with what a marriage is," she said. "Two people."
I'm John Russell.
Isabel Debre and Mohammed Darahgmeh reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
wedding – n. a ceremony at which two people are married to each other
couple – n. two individuals who are married or close together
instruction – n. an order or direction
hall – n. a usually long, narrow passage inside a building with doors that lead to rooms on the sides
glove – n. a covering for the hand that has separate parts for each finger
lockdown – n. a temporary state of restricted movement or activity
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