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Muslims globally mark Eid al-Fitr with prayers and festive meals

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The Ramadan Bayram holiday, also known as Eid al-Fitr, ushered in a day of prayer and joy for Muslims around the world on Friday. The celebration was marred by a tragedy in Sudan amid the outbreak of conflict there, while the celebration in other places came against the backdrop of hopes for a better future.

After Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr with feasts and family visits. The beginning of the holiday is traditionally based on the sighting of the new crescent moon, which varies by geographical location.

In Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, the early hours of Eid saw sporadic gunfire. The bloody conflict that erupted last week in the vast African country has forced many people to take refuge in their homes before the holidays, even as water and food run low for civilians.

In East Jerusalem, thousands of believers gathered at Islam’s third-holiest shrine, the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, as it was attacked by Israeli authorities last month. The complex also hosts the holiest site in Judaism.

After the Eid prayer, a clown entertained the children and a woman patted a girl’s cheek with the green, red, black and white Palestinian flag.

The streets of the Arab capitals, Damascus, Baghdad and Beirut, were crowded with worshipers heading to mosques and cemeteries. Many Muslims visit the graves of their loved ones after the dawn prayer on the first day of Eid al-Fitr. Visitors carried bouquets of flowers, jugs of water for plants, and brooms for cleaning tombstones.

“After the Eid prayer, we always visit our dead… We pray and salute them, may God have mercy on them and forgive them on this blessed day,” Atheer Muhammad said at the Adhamiya cemetery in Baghdad.

Islamic holidays follow the lunar calendar. But some countries rely on astronomical calculations rather than physical observations. This often leads to disagreements between religious authorities in different countries – and sometimes in the same country – over when Eid al-Fitr begins.

This year, Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries began their Eid celebrations on Friday, while Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia, among others, set the first day of the holiday for Saturday.

And in Sudan, the holiday was overshadowed by a week of intense battles between the army and its rival paramilitary forces, which are engaged in a violent struggle for control of the country. The fighting left hundreds of people dead and thousands injured.

In a video message posted early Friday, in his first speech since fighting broke out, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan noted the somber tone of the holiday. “The desolation, destruction and sounds of bullets left no place for the happiness that everyone deserves in our beloved country,” he said.

The day before, Sudan’s military had ruled out negotiations with the rival paramilitary force, known as the Rapid Support Forces, saying it would only accept its surrender as the two sides continue to fight in central Khartoum and other parts of the country, threatening to destroy international forces. Attempts to broker a sustainable cease-fire.

But in other parts of the region, the recent rapprochement between arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran has raised hopes for peace.

In Yemen, the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement has raised the possibility of ending the civil war that has turned into a proxy conflict and has torn the country apart since 2014.

Saudi officials and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels recently began talks in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. During the last days of Ramadan, the warring parties exchange hundreds of prisoners captured during the conflict.

But the moment of hope was marred by a stampede late Wednesday at a charity gala in the rebel-held capital that killed at least 78 people and wounded 77.

This year’s Eid al-Fitr came in the wake of the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine.

Alaa Abu Hatab and his only remaining daughter started the holiday in the Palestinian Gaza Strip by visiting the graves of his wife and four children who were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Eid al-Fitr in 2021. That strike also killed Abu Hatab. her sister and her children.

“Because they were killed on Eid, I miss them especially during Eid al-Fitr. I miss their laughter,” said Abu Hatab, standing by his family’s grave with his 6-year-old daughter Maria. He said that Eid has become “a scene of pain and loss.”

In Kabul, Afghanistan, where worshipers gathered under the watchful eyes of the Taliban rulers, 35-year-old Abdul-Mateen said, “I hope that besides security we will have good income and good jobs. Unfortunately, people cannot afford to buy all their necessities in this Hard time.”

In Turkey and Syria, many are still mourning loved ones lost in the devastating magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes that struck the two countries on February 6, killing more than 50,000 people.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday performed Eid prayers at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, the sixth-century Byzantine church in Istanbul that was converted into a mosque in the 15th century. Hagia Sophia became a museum in 1934 and was reconverted into a mosque three years ago.

Erdogan distributed chocolates and pastries to journalists outside the mosque.

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