Funeral prayers banned to hide COVID-19 deaths - opposition MP

Funeral prayers in mosques have been banned in an effort to hide the number of deaths from COVID-19, a member of the Turkish opposition said on Friday.

In provinces with a high death rate, mosques have been ordered to stop broadcasting the special prayers that are read when a member of the congregation dies, called “sela” in Turkish, “in order to hide the increase in deaths caused by COVID-19 from the public,” Alpay Antmen of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said.

Antmen’s comments follow growing accusations that the government has been downplaying the pandemic’s impact on Turkey.

Since July, the Ministry of Health’s official COVID-19 statistics have only included “patients” rather than the total number of infections.

In September, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca stopped sharing daily figures on Twitter, and although announcements continued on the ministry website, Koca spoke to reporters about them only during press events.

Earlier this week, Koca said that from Oct. 15 the ministry was going to make public all infections, but later said he meant that the data would only be provided to the World Health Organisation.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) has repeatedly stated that the rate of COVID-19 in Turkey is much higher than the official figures, drawing the ire of government officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said the TTB had a terrorist at the helm.