Syria Kurds revive ancient rain ritual as drought bites
Syrian Kurds parade a doll made of wood and colourful fabric as they perform the 'Bride of the Rain' ritual in the northeast city of Qamishli on November 19, 2021 Delil SOULEIMAN AFP

Syrian Kurds in the northeast city of Qamishli on Friday performed an ancient rain ritual that has gained new relevance as they struggle with record low rainfall.

The "Bride of the Rain" ritual, practiced for centuries by the region's Kurdish community, is traditionally performed during winter to ward off drought.

A doll made of wood and colorful fabric is paraded through the street and sprayed with water while people recite special prayers.

After largely dying out in recent decades, the custom has re-emerged as drought-hit residents of Syria's northeast grapple with a growing climate disaster that has threatened their crops and livelihoods.

"We had abandoned this tradition a long time ago but we restored it in the past two years... due to severe drought," said Farhan Ahmad, 54, who owns a plot of farmland.

In the Syrian city of Qamishli, a group of children carried the doll through the streets as neighbors brought cups of water for the ritual.

An elderly man perched out the window of an empty cinderblock building delivered a rain prayer.

Hajji Suleiman, 71, said he remembered performing the same ritual as a child but that circumstances were different now.

"We have entered the middle of winter and it has not yet rained once," he said.

Najah, 34, said she had organized a feast in honor of the ceremony.

"We hope God will have mercy on us because our nation needs rain," she told AFP.

"Most of the people here are poor, some of them have not brought meat into their homes for five months."

© 2021 AFP