Sparked by the tragic death of a 27-year-old asylum seeker and mother of three from Afghanistan, Greece’s Muslim community has requested more appropriate burial places for their dead. Currently, there is only one Muslim cemetery in the entire country.
The woman, who tested positive for the coronavirus before passing away, was a resident of the Ritsona refugee camp on the Greek island of Evia.
The Greek Forum for Migrants is collecting donations to send the body of the Afghani mother and asylum seeker to either the lone Islamic cemetery in Greece, or back to Afghanistan.
According to Islam’s specific funerary rites, burial takes place as soon after the death as possible, usually under 24 hours later, and the body is buried so that the head is facing Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
Due to the lack of Muslim burial grounds in Greece, however, the remains of Muslims have been housed in mortuaries for days at a time.
The lone Muslim cemetery in Greece is located in the northeastern region of Thrace, home to a considerable population of Greek Muslims who have been present in the area for hundreds of years.
The Muslim population in Greece has grown exponentially in recent years, due to an influx of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East, Central and South Asia and North Africa to the country.
Previously the only major European capital without a functioning mosque, Athens opened its first such place of worship in the city since the Ottoman Era just earlier this month.
The country’s Muslims had been waiting 14 years for the mosque to be opened, as its construction faced significant delays due to the vicissitudes of politics and public opinion.
These residents are urging Greece to construct additional spaces for Muslim burials in the country, as they face astronomical costs — sometimes covered by donations from NGOs or the community — to send the remains of their loved ones to the distant region of Thrace.