Syria's Assad orders rain prayers amid drought
Imams across Syria have prayed for rain during this week's congregational prayers following orders from the country's President Bashar al-Assad, SANA state news agency reported on Friday.
Assad ordered Muslim leaders to pray for rain during this week's Friday prayers through a circular distributed by the religious affairs ministry.
"Citizens should perform rain prayers which consist of three days of fasting… seeking forgiveness from God and prayer on the generous Prophet Mohammed," the circular said.
The state news agency said insufficient rains and a changing climate have hurt crop yields this year. Most of Syria's rain comes in winter.
Friday prayers are the most important weekly prayers in the Muslim world. Imams deliver weekly sermons on topics ranging from family to politics and, in this case, the weather.
Several studies have linked the conflict in Syria to a devastating drought in the period before the outbreak of the civil war.
According to the UN, the collapse in crop yields forced as many as 1.5 million Syrians to migrate to urban centres just before the war started.
The studies have argued that climate change has been a risk multiplier and not the sole cause of the conflict, which began when Assad responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring.
The crackdown triggered an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
In Israel, Jewish worshippers also prayed for rain at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Thursday after Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel called for prayers to relieve the country's drought-hit farming sector.