Coronavirus Pandemic: Positive stories of resilience and bravery

Coronavirus Pandemic: Positive stories of resilience and bravery from the Middle East this week
5 min read
31 May, 2020
Top five stories highlighting the Middle East's resilience in the face of the novel coronavirus this week.
110-year-old Moroccan woman recovers from coronavirus, among other positive developments this week. [Getty]
The novel coronavirus has now infected over six million people globally. In the absence of a vaccine, Covid-19 continues to spread across the world, while more than 2.5 million patients have already recovered from infection.

Countries across the Middle East are gradually easing coronavirus restrictions, allowing businesses and places of worship to reopen under strict regulations.

After gaining some control over outbreak, the Middle East has seen some positive advancements. Every week, The New Arab reports five uplifting regional news. Here are our top picks from this week:

1. Muslim woman becomes UK's first hijab-wearing judge

Muslim woman has become the first judge in the UK to wear the hijab, after she was appointed as a deputy district judge on the Midlands circuit last week, British media reported on Tuesday. 

Raffia Arshad, 40, who grew up in Yorkshire, north England, had been practicing law as a barrister while wearing the Islamic headscarf prior to her promotion.

As an ethnic minority woman from a working-class background, Arshad shared that she always thought "people who looked like me" were held back from making it far in her profession, but her promotion proved the opposite. 

The mum-of-three said she now wants "to make sure the sound of diversity is heard loud and clear", according to comments she made to Metro newspaper.

"It's definitely bigger than me, I know this is not about me. It’s important for all women, not just Muslim women, but it is particularly important for Muslim women," she said.

"It's odd because it's something I've been working towards for a number of years and I always imagined I'd be absolutely ecstatic when I found out.

"I was happy, but the happiness I've had from other people sharing this is far greater.

"I've had so many emails from people, men and women. It's the ones from women that stand out, saying that they wear a hijab and they thought they wouldn't even be able to become a barrister, let alone a judge."

As a solicitor, Arshad had practiced in private law children, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and cases related to issues of Islamic law. She also authored a leading text in Islamic family law. Read more here.

2. Turkey prepares to resume domestic flights in June

Turkey's national airline will resume flights to five local provinces in June, as coronavirus measures are relaxed.

Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said on Saturday that domestic flights would resume "gradually" starting from June 1.

Turkish Airlines will start to operate domestic flights to İstanbul, Ankara, Antalya, İzmir and Trabzon starting on Tuesday – over a month after all domestic and international flights were halted late April. 

"As of June 1, we will be in the skies, where we belong," Turkish airlines spokesperson Yahya Ustun said in a Tweet on Saturday.

According to Turkish media reports, the travel ban on 15 of the hardest-hit cities, including Ankara and Istanbul, will also be lifted on Monday.

According to public information made available by the Turkish Embassy in the US, all those travelling on domestic flights and trains will require a personal code, issued by the coronavirus-tracking Hayat Eve Sigar application.

"Passengers who are not approved by the Ministry of Health to travel will not be permitted to travel," the embassy wrote.

Cafes, restaurants, parks, gyms and museums will reportedly be allowed to reopen in the coming week. Read more here.

3. 110-year-old Moroccan woman recovers from coronavirus after 26 days in hospital

A 110 year-old woman from the Moroccan city of Fez has become one of the oldest people in the word to recover from the novel coronavirus, local media reported on Saturday.

The unnamed patient spent 26 days at the Hassan II University Hospital Center in Fez after testing positive for the virus, according to Morocco World News.

Two consecutive tests showed her to be free of Covid-19, which she had contracted from her son, local media reported.

As oldest person to have recovered from coronavirus in the North African kingdom, the woman joins a highly select group of super-centenarians who have so far defied all the odds and become free of the deadly virus.

On Thursday, 111 year-old Juana Zuniga made a full recovery after testing positive following an outbreak at her care home near the Chilean city of Santiago.

On May 12, 113 year-old Maria Branyas from Spain became the oldest person in the world to recover from Covid-19. Born on 4 March 1907, the mother-of-three had lived through the Spanish flu pandemic.

Morocco has officially recorded 7,740 cases as of Saturday, with a death toll of 203. The recovery rate is reportedly high, standing at nearly 70 percent. Read more here.

4. Mosques re-open in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jerusalem

Tens of thousands of mosques across Saudi Arabia reopened on Sunday for the first time in more than two months, similarly to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, which opened its doors to worshippers the same day.

Worshipers in all three countries are instructed to follow strict guidelines during prayers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Riyadh prepared for the reopening of around 90,000 mosques after sanitising prayer rugs, washrooms and shelves holding copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

In Saudi Arabia, Children under 15 years-old were not being allowed inside mosques, while the elderly and those with chronic conditions were being told to pray at home.

Read more: Mosques reopen in Saudi Arabia amid coronavirus woes

Turkish mosques reopened earlier on Friday, as the country continues its efforts to shift to a "new normal" by loosening lockdown measures. Turkey has also opened shopping malls, barbershops and hair salons. Read more here.

5. Qatar Airways to resume flights to 80 destinations in June

Qatar Airways has revealed that it plans to fly a summer schedule to over 80 destinations worldwide despite concerns over Covid-19.

The airline took to Twitter to announce the news.

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"With our Summer schedule, we aim to operate to more than 80 destinations spanning from East to West," the kingdom's official airline wrote on the social media website.

It is one of the few airlines globally that has continued flying despite lockdown efforts set up across the world to curb the spread of Covid-19, and maintained services to nearly 30 destinations.

New health and safety procedures are to be introduced on the airline to protect passengers from contracting Covid-19.

Cabin crew will begin wearing protective suits and passengers will have to wear face masks on board. Read more here.

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