Iraqis are exhuming family members who died from Covid-19 to rebury them in their family cemeteries after burial restrictions were eased in Iraq.
Hundreds of families dug up their family members to rebury them in their rightful place, after laws preventing coronavirus victims being brought back to family tombs were lifted.
The restrictions were introduced as preventative measures for fear the corpses could still spread the virus.
The law permitted only one family member to attend speedy burials, which took place in the middle of the night.
A plot of desert located outside the shrine city of Najaf was designated a “coronavirus cemetery”, where victims from all religious sects were buried five metres apart by volunteers in protective gear.
Iraqi authorities announced on September 7th that restrictions would be lifted so the deceased could be relocated to the cemetery of their family’s choice.
Hundreds of mourners carrying shovels and baskets began arriving at the cemetery on Thursday night.
Mohammad al-Bahadi dug into the sand with his bare hand to reach his father’s corpse.
He said: “Now he can finally be with our people, our family, in the old cemetery.
“The first time, he was buried so far away.
“I’m not sure it was done in the proper religious way.”
A lack of organisation in the cemetery caused a lot of confusion among the dead’s relatives, including a case where family members dug up a gravesite with their relative’s name on it to find a teenage boy at the place of their deceased mother.
Others found the body of their loved ones had not been wrapped in burial shroud, an Islamic creed which acts as a sign of respect.
Abdallah Kareem, who lost his brother due to complication from COVID-19, told AFP: “The gravediggers don’t have expertise or the right materials.
“They don’t even know how to locate the grave.”
Many were grateful to finally be given the opportunity to have a traditional send off for their loved ones.
Another mourner, Hussein – who gave only his first name – said: “Since my father was buried here, I keep replaying his words in my head before he died: ‘My son, try to bury me in the family cemetery, don’t let me be too far from my relatives.
Hussein dug up his father by hand to transfer him to Wadi al-Salam cemetery, where millions of Shiite Muslims are buried.
He added: “The dream that had been haunting me for these last few months has been realised.”