domenica, Aprile 14, 2024

Muslims in Sri Lanka ‘denied justice’ over forced cremations of Covid victims

La comunità musulmana in Sri Lanka, che rappresenta il 9% della popolazione, vede oggi lesi i propri diritti a causa della politica governativa di cremazione obbligatoria per i corpi sospettati di Covid-19. I ricorsi legali presentati contro questo obbligo sono stati fin qui respinti. Per gli attivisti dei diritti umani si tratta di una chiara discriminazione etnico-razziale, che veicola un attacco a tutte le minoranze religiose, compresa quella cristiana. L’articolo del Guardian riporta varie testimonianze. I musulmani, in particolare, vivono la cremazione come una condanna all’inferno: molti credenti sono stati costretti ad abbandonare i propri cari dopo la morte, per non essere co-responsabili della cremazione. A fronte di queste violazioni dei diritti, come dichiarato anche dall’OMS, non esiste alcuna base medico-scientifica che giustifichi l’obbligo della cremazione.


di Hannah Ellis-Petersen


Muslim and Christian families in Sri Lanka whose relatives were cremated during the coronavirus pandemic in violation of their religious beliefs say they have been denied justice after the supreme court threw out their case.

Sri Lanka’s mandatory cremation policy for all bodies suspected to be infected with Covid-19 has been the cause of outrage and trauma for the majority-Buddhist country’s Muslim and Christian minorities, whose beliefs stipulate bodies should be buried. In Islam, to cremate bodies is to condemn them to hell.

Several of the Muslims whose bodies were cremated by the authorities had not been tested for coronavirus, or had even tested negative. Sri Lanka has had more than 25,000 cases of Covid-19 and 124 deaths, including more than 50 Muslims who were cremated.

In May, one Muslim man found that his mother had been wrongfully cremated. “The day my mother died at hospital, they took her body away and then handed me a pot of her ashes. But the next day they told me that my mother’s test was negative and it was a mistake cremating her. Every night I wake up and think of mother’s fate. We are poor and we do not have the means to demand justice or fight the authorities,” he said.

Eleven affected families, both Muslim and Christian, took up a legal battle against the cremations, accusing the government of violating their freedom of religion and fundamental rights under the constitution. However, this week the supreme court refused to hear the appeal and dismissed the case, dashing their final hopes of justice and a halt to the mandatory cremations, which are still going on.

Some Muslim families have begun disowning their dead because they do not want to be complicit in the cremations, which they see as a sin for their loved ones. Many have also refused to pay the fees of 48,000 rupees (£192) that are demanded by the state to cover the costs of cremation, meaning bodies of Muslim Covid-19 victims have begun to pile up in hospital morgues.

Among them was Mohammad Ashraff, 49, whose uncle Mohammad Jeffrey, 76, died on 26 November of coronavirus. His body was compulsorily brought to a hospital in Colombo. “They demanded payment for the coffin but I refused because I told them it is against our religion to burn bodies. We have to obey the law but we would not participate, we would make no payments, we would have no part and no complicity in this.”

Human rights activists say the policy is part of an ongoing attack on Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, who make up 9% of the population, by the Sinhala Buddhist majority government, led by the president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa was elected last year on a wave of anti-Muslim, hardline Buddhist sentiment, following the Easter suicide bombings by Islamist militants in churches and luxury hotels last April which left 267 dead.

Shreen Saroor, a human rights activist, said: “The way they are treating the Muslim community during this pandemic is clear-cut racism. The community is being forced to abandon their own dead in order to protect their beliefs and traditions. There is not even a scientific justification for them being denied dignity in death.”

Sri Lanka is the only country aside from China which has mandated cremations for suspected coronavirus fatalities, with the government justifying it on the basis of concerns of the virus contaminating groundwater, and that Covid-19 victims’ bodies could be used as “biological weapons … by certain groups”.

However, the World Health Organization issued guidelines stating that the burial of victims posed no danger to public health, and the United Nations resident coordinator for Sri Lanka and UN regional groups have all written to the Sri Lanka government calling for the Covid-19 dead to be handled with dignity and their religious beliefs respected.

This week, a statement condemning the lack of justice for those affected by the forced cremations was signed by 24 human rights and advocacy groups. “These measures affect more than one religious group, but it is particularly terrifying Muslims for whom the burial of dead is a non-negotiable religious practice. They feel targeted, bullied and threatened by the manner in which the government is acting on this,” said the statement.


Fonte: The Guardian, 4 Dicembre 2020.