Iraqis Their Covid bodies have been excavated for re-burial in their correct places. France Press agency Reports, warning, that’s a painful story.

Muhammad Al-Bahadli dug into the hot desert sands of Iraq with his bare hands to reach his father’s body.

“Now he can finally be with our family and our family in the old cemetery,” said Bahadley, 49, as relatives cried over the body wrapped in a shroud.

After the restrictions imposed on the burial of the deceased from the Coronavirus have been eased, Iraqis are exhuming the remains of the victims to be buried in their proper place in family cemeteries.

For several months, families were prevented from returning the body for burial in the family’s cemetery, fearing that the bodies could still spread the virus.

Instead, the authorities established a “Coronavirus Cemetery” on a desert plot outside the city of Najaf, where volunteers wearing protective clothing bury the victims five meters (16 feet) away.

Only one relative was allowed to attend the express burial, which often occurred in the middle of the night.

Victims of all religious sects – Shiites and Sunnis, as well as Christians – were buried there.

An Iraqi family mourns the coffin of a relative during a reburial ceremony at the vast Wadi al-Salam cemetery in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

An Iraqi family mourns the coffin of a relative during a reburial ceremony at the vast Wadi al-Salam cemetery in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

On September 7, however, the authorities announced that they would allow the transfer of those who died to a cemetery of their families’ choice.

Many of those buried came from other parts of the country.

“The first time, he was buried too far,” said Bhadley of his 80-year-old father’s funeral rites. “I’m not sure it was done in the correct religious way.”

Iraq was one of the worst affected countries in the Middle East, with more than 280,000 cases and nearly 8,000 deaths.

On September 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that “the probability of transmission when handling human remains is low”.

Days later, and after pressure from the families, the Iraqi authorities announced that they would only allow “specialized health teams” to transport the bodies.

But the first reburial operations were chaotic. At a “Coronavirus Cemetery” in the desert outside Najaf, hundreds of families began arriving late Thursday to pick up their family members and take the body home.

They brought their shovels and baskets to remove sand and new wooden coffins.

Sounds of intense wailing and mourning prayers mixed with the malice of axes echoed across the sand.

An AFP reporter said there were no medical professionals or cemetery evidence at the site to help families properly locate or dig the bodies.

In some cases, families have dug into a grave site bearing the name of a relative, only to find an empty coffin, or to uncover the body of a young man when they were expecting to find the body of their elderly mother.

An Iraqi family searches for the body of a relative in a Coronavirus cemetery outside the holy Shiite city of Najaf.

An Iraqi family searches for the body of a relative in a Coronavirus cemetery outside the holy Shiite city of Najaf. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

The other bodies were not wrapped in burial shrouds, which Islam requires as a sign of respect.

The results sparked angry criticism of the state-sponsored armed group that has taken over the burial responsibility in recent months, with some angry relatives setting fire to the nearby platoon base.

Abdullah Karim, whose brother Ahmed died of complications from the Covid-19 virus, said that “grave diggers do not have the expertise or the appropriate materials.”

“They don’t even know how to locate the graves,” he said.

Karim, who comes from 230 kilometers (140 miles) south in the Iraqi province of Muthanna, chose not to re-bury his brother in case he violated the fatwas.

In Islam, the dead must be buried as quickly as possible, usually within 24 hours.

A cleric in Najaf told AFP that cremation is strictly prohibited and re-burial is not heard, although it is not necessarily prohibited if the body remains intact.

“Since my father was buried here, I still repeat his words in my head before his death: My son, try to bury me in the family cemetery, don’t let me go too far from my relatives,” Hussein, another mourner who mentioned his first name only.

The 53-year-old manually excavated his father’s body to take him to the vast Valley of Peace Cemetery, where millions of Shiites are buried.

Hussein said, “The dream that has been haunting me for the past few months has come true.”

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