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Iranians Mark End Of Ramadan As Society Gradually Reopening

Eid marks the end of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

Many Iranians began cautious celebrations to mark the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan as the country took further steps to reopen amid its ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Iranian media said Eid al-Fitr prayers were conducted in 110 mosques in the capital, Tehran, on May 24 under what official Iranian outlet Press TV described as "strict health protocols" that included social distancing.

Worshipers in predominantly Shi'ite Iran are marking the end of Ramadan on separate days -- May 24 or 25 -- depending on the differing edicts from different religious authorities.

The May 24 celebrations coincide with a reopening of museums and historical sites announced a day earlier by President Hassan Rohani.

Rohani said the country was entering "the fourth stage" of the outbreak, which he described as one of " manage and counter the coronavirus."

Iran is trying to recover from the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the region, with an official infection count of over 135,000 and more than 7,400 deaths in Iran, although many believe those numbers underrepresent the severity of the pandemic there.

Rohani said religious shrines, where many coronavirus cases had spread from early on in the crisis, will reopen on May 25 and worshippers will have to observe social distancing and similar rules to prevent spreading the virus further.

Rohani last week said that restaurants would reopen after Ramadan and sports activities would resume without spectators. Universities are set to reopen early next month.

Gradual Reopening

Press TV quoted the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying that Rohani and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke by telephone on May 24 to encourage the reopening of land and air borders that have been closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but there was no confirmation of any immediate measures.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final religious and political authority in Iran, said on his official website that the Eid al-Fitr would fall on May 24.

But other senior Shi'ite clerics in Iran, known as "marjas," issued separate statements saying the holiday would be celebrated on May 25.

The end of Ramadan is determined by the position of the moon, in accordance with the Muslim lunar calendar.

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Khamenei, who normally leads Eid prayers at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Grand Prayer Grounds, canceled that event as part of the measures to contain the pandemic.

"We're happy to have taken part in prayers here," AFP quoted a 55-year-old worshiper as saying through a face mask outside the Samen Mosque west of Tehran.

Most of those present had masks, the agency said.

The head of Iran's task force to contain the coronavirus and other authorities urged anyone who suspected they had COVID-19 symptoms, as well as pregnant women and those suffering from underlying conditions, to avoid public venues to mark Eid.

There was no initial word on possible damage caused by an earthquake of 5.1 magnitude that the U.S. Geological Survey said hit western Iran on May 24.

With reporting by AFP
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