Last week in the Middle East and North Africa, a number of morality-related events were reported, while state authorities intervened in the administration and maintenance of mosques. In Iran, state forces shut down a tourist spot for morality-related violations, and cut fuel and electricity supply to Sunni mosques and schools in Saravan county. In Iraq, local officials introduced restrictive legislation targeting cafes operating in the vicinity of all girls’ schools. In Egypt, security forces arrested a woman on vice-related charges and the Ministry of Endowments issued orders limiting mosques’ autonomy. In Yemen, pro-Houthi forces appointed preachers loyal to their movement in a newly conquered district, while local pro-Houthi officials passed regulations to further consolidate Houthi control over mosques in another district.
In Iran, Iraq, and Egypt, authorities prosecuted people and introduced restrictive legislation under morality-related pretexts last week. In Iran, police forces shut down and sealed a touristic campsite in the city of Boshruyeh after a group renting the place was accused of “mixed-gender dancing and unveiling” (HRANA, 9 December 2021). In Iraq, the governor of Suq Al Shoyokh prohibited the establishment of cafes near girls’ schools in the district, and banned underage teenagers from entering cafes during school hours. Meanwhile, Egyptian security forces arrested a Ukrainian woman in New Cairo on charges of “spreading vice and debauchery,” after her neighbors saw her undressed on her balcony and called the police (Al Masry Al Youm, 9 December 2021).
Also, in Iran, the regime continued its systematic discriminatory policies against non-Shiite religious minorities last week. Iranian authorities from the National Iranian Oil Company cut oil quotas for all Sunni mosques and schools in the county of Saravan under the pretext of the institutions using high-consumption air conditioners. Iranian police forces also raided the Sunni Dar Al ‘Ulum seminary in the city of Jaleq, in Saravan county, and cut off electricity for the same reason.
Last week in Yemen and Egypt, state authorities intervened in the running of mosques, imposing pro-government preachers and standardizing sermons. Pro-Houthi forces imposed preachers on the Harib district’s Grand Mosque, as well as on other mosques, to recruit soldiers and to spread war propaganda in support of their ongoing campaign in Marib. Harib district, which is located in the Marib governorate, was captured by pro-Houthi forces in September. The imposition of loyal clergymen on mosques in newly conquered territories seems to be a deliberate power consolidation policy by the Houthis. Pro-Houthi authorities also imposed preachers on Sunni mosques in Bayhan district after they captured the district in September. Meanwhile, the pro-Houthi Endowment and Guidance Office in the Amran governorate issued new regulations bringing mosques across the governorate under its centralizing control. The office ordered a halt on the construction of new mosques, demanded the closure of all newly built unauthorized mosques, and standardized the Friday sermon across the governorate. In Egypt, the Ministry of Religious Endowments issued new regulations banning small, local mosques (zawiyas) from holding communal Friday prayers and Quranic lessons, limiting these activities to large or central mosques only. The new regulations also include a clause changing the names of 729 mosques across the country from being named after “groups, organizations, or ideologies with specific connotations,” in order to preserve the “purity of [mosques’ religious] essence and appearance” (Al Shorouk, 6 December 2021).
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