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Circular Restricts Entry of Foreign Visitors to the Umayyad Mosque

These latest directives coincide with the approaching Ashura commemoration.
Circular Restricts Entry of Foreign Visitors to the Umayyad Mosque

The National Security Bureau (NSB), Syria’s foremost security agency, has issued a circular mandating the monitoring of foreign visitors, regardless of nationality, to the Umayyad Mosque in Old Damascus.

Confidential sources disclosed to Sowt al-Asima that the National Security has imposed stringent regulations on tourist and religious delegations, necessitating special approvals for entry into the mosque. There’s a particular emphasis on preventing any religious rituals or sounds that could compromise the sanctity of the mosque.

Sources from Sowt al-Asima indicated that instructions have been disseminated to fortify the mosque, with additional personnel deployed during recent times. According to these instructions, no foreign citizen, even if categorized as a tourist, will be admitted without proper authorization, except as part of a sanctioned delegation or with specific security clearance to visit the Umayyad Mosque.

The circular extends to diplomats and clerics of the Shi’ite community, irrespective of their nationality, who must obtain approvals through diplomatic channels before visiting the mosque. Additionally, non-Syrian journalists, photographers, and tourists traveling to Syria from various countries worldwide are subject to these regulations.

Insiders from the mosque’s administration informed Sowt al-Asima that guards have recently turned away numerous tourists of diverse nationalities from entering the mosque. Some managed entry under the supervision of Syrian tour guides accompanying them.

These latest directives coincide with the approaching Ashura commemoration, observed by Shi’ite communities in the neighborhoods of Damascus’ Old City.

According to sources from Sowt al-Asima, the rationale behind these measures by National Security stems from the persistence of Shi’ite delegations from different nations in conducting their rituals outside designated religious areas, such as the shrines of Sayyeda Ruqayya and Sayyeda Zainab.

In recent years, followers of the Shi’ite community have utilized the Umayyad Mosque, the Hamidiya market, and surrounding areas, extending to the shrine of Sayyida Ruqayya, for rituals involving chanting and self-flagellation. These activities often encroach upon religious symbols associated with the Umayyad era, prompting these security measures.

 

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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