It’s not just that there isn’t much to celebrate in countries broken by war, now even the technicalities surrounding festivities are a topic of contention.
Muslims across the world yesterday celebrated the end of Ramadan. Yet for Muslims living in warzones, Eid, which should be a day to rest and reunite with family, has been marred by bitter local conflict. As if that weren’t enough, in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where local conflicts are part of larger regional and global wars, Ramadan and Eid are increasingly used as tools in the ever-increasing power struggle on the ground.
Sunnis and Shias celebrate Eid on different days almost every year and this year, of course, is no exception.
In Iraq, the leader of the Sunni Endowments, Abdul Latif al Humim, announced that Eid would be on June 4. This was in contrast to the office of the Shiite cleric Ali Sistani, which said it would be subject to moon-sighting with the naked eye.
There have been deep political differences between Shia and Sunni authorities over power-sharing in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which have since extended to include exerting control over the communities.
As the war in Yemen enters its fifth year, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, currently based in the port of Aden, declared that Tuesday would be the first day of Eid, aligning itself with Saudi Arabia.
The Houthi-led, Iran-backed opposition, which currently controls the capital Sanaa, and several other provinces, declared that Eid would be on Wednesday, in opposition to the Saudi-led authorities and their local proxy.
As the power struggle between the two sides deepens, local actors feel the need to exercise their power by being able to impose their will over all matters, which now includes religious affairs.
Unlike in Iraq or Lebanon, this is one of the first times that Yemenis have found themselves celebrating on different days.
Yemen has been plagued by a civil war that began in 2015. Since then the war, which has seen Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran fight out a bitter proxy war for control over the strategic country, has left millions malnourished and thousands dead and displaced.
In Syria, where the Assad regime is attempting to gain control of Idlib, one of the last opposition-held areas, religious division is not just a fight for political survival.
The Syrian Arab News Agency, the state-backed outlet, announced that Mahmoud Maarawi, Damascus’s judge on all matters pertaining to religion, had ruled that the month of Shawwal, which comes after the month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar, would commence on Wednesday since they had not sighted the moon on Monday.
The opposition in Idlib, on the other hand, celebrated Eid on Tuesday, which underlines the deep animosity between the sides.
Symbolically at least, the Assad regime and the opposition do not want to be seen as if they are following each other.
The Assad regime has brutally cracked down on any opposition to his rule, which has lead to the death of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions.