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In a Victory for Women in Sudan, Female Genital Mutilation Is Outlawed

New Age Islam News Bureau

1 May 2020

Dozens of women activists, leaders and lawmakers have joined a petition denouncing a death threat against congressional candidate Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the first Muslim woman to run for federal office from New Jersey.


• In a Victory for Women in Sudan, Female Genital Mutilation Is Outlawed

• US: Activists Decry Threat Against Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, The First Muslim Woman to Run for Federal Office From New Jersey

• Saudi Women's Rights Activist Loujain Al Hathloul Must Be Freed, Sister Tells The Star

• Saudi Women Push to Expand Consulting Leadership Opportunities

• Why Pakistani Mothers Yearn To Have A Male Child?

• Ilorin-Based Non-Governmental Organisation, The Pious Muslim Women Feeds 2,000 Muslims

• Meet the Inspirational Saudi Woman Holding the Global Tolerance Award

• Afghanistan- Women Among 5 Killed InGhazniRoadside Bombing

• Hope As 93-Year-Old Turkish Woman Recovers From Coronavirus

Compiled ByNew Age Islam News Bureau



In a Victory for Women in Sudan, Female Genital Mutilation Is Outlawed

By Declan Walsh

April 30, 2020

CAIRO — Sudan’s new government has outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation, a move hailed as a major victory by women’s rights campaigners in a country where the often dangerous practice is widespread.

The United Nations estimates that nearly nine in 10 Sudanese women have been subjected to the most invasive form of the practice, which involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia and leads to health and sexual problems that can be fatal.

Now, anyone in Sudan who performs female genital mutilation faces a possible three-year prison term and a fine under an amendment to Sudan’s criminal code approved last week by the country’s transitional government, which came to power only last year following the ouster of longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

“This is a massive step for Sudan and its new government,” said Nimco Ali of the Five Foundation, an organization that campaigns for an end to genital mutilation globally. “Africa cannot prosper unless it takes care of girls and women. They are showing this government has teeth.”

Genital mutilation is practiced in at least 27 African countries, as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East. Other than Sudan and Egypt, it is most prevalent in Ethiopia, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Djibouti and Senegal, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

“The law will help protect girls from this barbaric practice and enable them to live in dignity,” said Salma Ismail, a spokeswoman in Khartoum for the United Nations Children’s Fund. “And it will help mothers who didn’t want to cut their girls, but felt they had no choice, to say ‘no.’”

Experts warn, however, that a law alone is not sufficient to end the practice, which in many countries is enmeshed with cultural and religious beliefs, considered a pillar of tradition and marriage, and supported by women as well as men.

“This is not just about legal reforms,” Ms. Ismail said. “There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that society will accept this.”

In Egypt, for instance, genital cutting was banned in 2008 and the law amended in 2016 to criminalize doctors and parents who facilitate the practice, with prison sentences of up to seven years for performing the operation and up to 15 if it results in disability or death.

Yet prosecutions are rare, and the operations continue quietly, with 70 percent of Egyptian women between 15 and 49 having been cut, mostly before they reach the age of 12, according to the United Nations.

Earlier this year, a 12-year-old Egyptian girl died on an operating table at a private clinic as a retired doctor performed genital mutilation without an anesthetic. In February, the Egyptian authorities referred the doctor and the girl’s parents for prosecution.

As global and local campaigns to end the practice have grown in recent years, some communities have slowly begun to turn against genital cutting, which is often seen as a rite of passage in communities of various faiths. In some places, campaigners have come up with alternative initiation ceremonies.

One such program among the Maasai in Kenya, where cutting has been outlawed since 2011, has reportedly helped saved at least 15,000 girls from the practice.

Most Sudanese women undergo what the World Health Organization calls Type III circumcision, an extreme form of the practice in which the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, are removed. The wound is then sewn closed in a practice known as reinfibulation that can cause cysts, lead to painful sex and prevent orgasm.

“The timing has been unfortunate,” said Ms. Ismail, of the United Nations. “Everyone was preoccupied with Covid-19,” she added, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Still, attitudes had already been shifting. Six of Sudan’s 18 states enacted laws to restrict or ban genital mutilation, beginning in 2008, but the measures were applied with limited success and resulted in no prosecutions, according to a report by 28 Too Many, a campaign group.

In 2016, Mr. al-Bashir, the country’s ruler of three decades, tried to introduce a national law banning the practice, but the effort was quashed by religious conservatives. The transitional government that replaced Mr. al-Bashir, a power-sharing arrangement between civilian and military leaders who have agreed to steer Sudan to elections in 2022, has overcome that hurdle.

Under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, women ministers lead five government ministries, and the government has repealed unpopular Bashir-era laws that dictated what women could wear or study, or even where they could congregate in public.

Tensions between military and civilian leaders have led to political turbulence, and even stoked fears of a possible military coup, inside the transitional government. Even so, significant changes have taken place.

The minister for religious affairs, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, recently attended a ceremony marking International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. “It is a practice that time, place, history and science have shown to be outdated,” he said, adding that it had no justification in Islam.

The minister said he supported the campaigners’ goal of eliminating the practice from Sudan by 2030.


US: Activists Decry Threat Against Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, The First Muslim Woman to Run for Federal Office From New Jersey

May 1, 2020

Dozens of women activists, leaders and lawmakers have joined a petition denouncing a death threat against congressional candidate Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the first Muslim woman to run for federal office from New Jersey.

The 27-year-old is the founder of, an online magazine with a global audience. After hosting a virtual town hall on Instagram, she said someone called her phone, and using racial slurs against Muslims, threatened to kill her and her family.

"It's unnerving for anybody to hear somebody threaten their family, let alone have their actual personal information and detail how they would go about doing that," Al-Khatahtbeh told The Associated Press news agency via video conference.

"But for me, the most important thing was to not confirm any of the information that they had, not try to encourage them, that you know, that I was even scared by them, because in the face of hate like that, a lot of times, if you get scared, it's like they win."

Al-Khatahtbeh published a recording of the April 21 death threat on her Twitter account on Wednesday. An open letter condemning the threat was signed by many supporters, including Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza, US Representative Rashida Tlaib and fellow Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar.

This isn’t my first death threat and I hesitated to share it, but it’s necessary to see the common experience of Muslims & minorities when hate is normalized by political leaders.

Al-Khatahtbeh is "running to be a public servant for the benefit of all Americans. Yet, because she is a Muslim woman, she is faced with Islamophobic and racist vitriol that threatens her life and the lives of those she loves," the letter said.

The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it had asked the FBI to investigate. The incident also was reported to the police, Al-Khatahtbeh said. The New Brunswick police department could not be reached for comment.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Al-Khatahtbeh was bullied. People threw eggs at her home and slashed her mother's tyres. Her family faced such a backlash that her father temporarily relocated them to Jordan.

When she returned to New Jersey, she started a blog at the age of 17 with help from friends at her local mosque. It eventually turned into her popular site, which covers everything from how it feels to be the only woman in a hijab at a kickboxing class, to beauty tips and stories of teenagers fighting Islamophobia.

In recent years, Forbes magazine chose Al-Khatahtbeh for its "30 Under 30" list of top achievers, and she was asked by former First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at the United State of Women Summit.

She launched her fully digital campaign in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic; her opponent in the July 7 Democratic primary is longtime incumbent Representative Frank Pallone.


Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al Hathloul must be freed, sister tells the Star

APRIL 30, 2020

THE family of prominent Saudi Arabian activist Loujain al-Hathloul has urged the world not to forget her and renewed demands for her release from prison.

Ms al-Hathloul’s sister Lina told the Star that the women’s rights activist, is losing hope ahead of the second anniversary of her detention, which falls next month.

“She’s getting a bit tired, she used to be very hopeful. I mean she was strong and she was the one cheering us [the family] up,” Lina said.

Loujain was kidnapped while driving on the highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in April 2018 when her car was surrounded by vehicles.

“They blindfolded her, put her in a plane and flew her to Saudi,” Lina recalls. “She didn’t know why she was detained and they said they were just following orders. When she arrived in Riyadh they put her in prison for a few days and interrogated her.

She has allegedly been severely tortured, including electric shocks, beatings on the soles of her feet, and was threatened with rape by a senior Saudi official who oversaw the interrogation and tortured her throughout Ramadan.

Authorities have since portrayed her as a “traitor,” accusing her of being in contact with a British diplomat, foreign journalists and human-rights organisations, along with an EU delegation to Saudi Arabia.

Loujain is accused of “trying to destabilise the kingdom,” but her sister says that her detention is entirely down to her campaigning for women’s rights.

Much has been made of the supposed reforms initiated under the Saudi crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, including relaxing of strict laws that meant women could only drive with a male chaperone.

In 2018 the Guardian ran a full-page advert which claimed: “He is empowering Saudi Arabian women,” with a photograph of a woman in a car above one of the reactionary prince.

But Lina said: “We are not free and we are not independent. If your male guardian doesn’t agree with you travelling or marrying the man you want, he will call the police and say you disobeyed him…the Saudi woman’s life is still submitted to a man.”

Communication with Loujain is difficult. She is banned from speaking to people outside Saudi Arabia and her parents, who are also her lawyers, cannot visit her in jail because of the Covid-19 outbreak — previously visits were restricted to once a month.


Saudi women push to expand consulting leadership opportunities

May 1, 2020

Consultants for western business advisory companies have been flocking to Saudi Arabia — particularly since 2016, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched his economic reform plan. His aim was to wean the kingdom off its dependence on oil revenues.

The consultants are mostly foreign men who enjoy advantages rarely open to Tala al-Jabri, a Saudi woman who set out eight years ago to build a career as a consultant. “Even for translation jobs — since many government clients in the kingdom require reports to be in Arabic — we were told all the translators must be men,” she says.

Many clients, especially in the government, did not want to deal with women. Furthermore, few companies in the region had female partners or women in senior positions who could serve as mentors or role models.

Ms Jabri, now 30, grew up in the coastal city of Jeddah. She studied finance at McGill University in Canada as part of a Saudi government scholarship programme sending students abroad. Most of these students return to seek work in the kingdom and the Gulf region.

z“Top consulting firms in my time would hire a legion of men but you would rarely see a Saudi female consultant in any client-facing role,” says Ms Jabri. She has worked at organisations including management consultancy Oliver Wyman and professional services firm Accenture.

Currently dividing her time between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, her most recent career step has been to move from consulting to a new path as a venture capital investor, including work for SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

Her first big break, she says, came in 2015 when she was hired by Dow Chemical as head of government strategy and markets. She was determined to prove herself in a role that allowed her to work with senior government officials, as the US company expanded its presence in the kingdom following a $20bn joint venture with state oil company Saudi Aramco.

Restrictions placed on Saudi women wishing to develop a business career have included strict guardianship rules. Women needed permission from a male guardian to travel abroad or obtain a passport, which often limited their chances to compete with male counterparts.

Saudi Arabia did not allow women to drive until 2018. Until recently, gender segregation has been the rule in most workplaces.

“In consulting, it’s a very team-centred design and so there are so many touch points with the team throughout the week. Every day you sit together for roughly 12 hours,” Ms Jabri says.

But there were many cases in her career in Saudi Arabia, “where I would need to work in a different room, and it takes away from how consulting works”.

That has gradually changed, with the kingdom seeking to relax restrictions on women and grant them more rights as part of the crown prince’s plan to overhaul the economy and modernise society.

Female unemployment remains high at 30.8 per cent, according to latest government data. But the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2020 report has praised Saudi Arabia for reforms advancing women’s economic participation. They no longer require permission from a male guardian to travel abroad or obtain a passport.

The portion of the Saudi workforce made up of women rose from 17.7 per cent in 2016 to 26 per cent at the end of last year. The government’s target is 30 per cent by 2030.

Ms Jabri notes positive signs. “It’s so crazy now when you go to government offices and you just see men and women mixing and exchanging ideas, especially younger generations,” she says.

At the same time, the number of women in leadership positions remains limited. Saudi Arabia appointed its first female ambassador last year when Princess Reema bint Bandar was named envoy to the US, but there are no female cabinet-level ministers.

As well as there being too few role models for Saudi women, says Ms Jabri, a key problem is “raising awareness around those remarkable women who are doing non-traditional gender roles”.

“Here in Saudi we have an amazing opportunity,” she says, noting that new attitudes are gathering strength among women in their twenties and thirties.

“I think young millennials and Gen Z are coming up believing that they can conquer the world,” she adds. “And that is exactly the right approach.”


Why Pakistani mothers yearn to have a male child?

Sultana Ali Kori

APRIL 30, 2020

“I am a mother of 10 daughters, but my husband desires for a son,” said Aisha, 36-year-old house maker, of TandoAllahyar, in August 2019. Ayesha was married at the age of 17. After two years of marriage, she gave birth to her first baby girl, but her happiness was short-lived as her infant daughter died after six months due to high fever. One and a half year later, Aisha was again blessed with another daughter. At present, she has 10 daughters. “I never used any contraceptive methods as we wanted to have a son. Now, my husband is threatening me that he will marry another woman so that he can have a son.”

As per Thomson Reuters Foundation (2018) survey results, India topped as the most dangerous country for women in terms of healthcare, discrimination, sexual violence and cultural traditions, followed by war-torn Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan was ranked sixth on the list.

During the field investigation in rural settings as part of the Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support (SUCCESS) Programme, it was divulged that a majority of impoverished families prefer a male child, who would grow up to be a productive member to the family and help the parents financially in old age. And these families keep on having children until they get a son. This culture has constrained the uptake of contraceptives and increased the family size in rural areas.

As per Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the country has a low (35.4) contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) as compared to other South Asian countries such as Bhutan (65.6), Bangladesh (62), Sri Lanka (61), and India (53.5). Pakistan’s CPR rate is only better than Afghanistan (22.5) and Maldives (34.7). Believing that the son is the legitimate inheritor of the household, a woman continues childbearing till the birth of a son.

Aisha is also facing the same situation as she fears for her marriage. Her daughters lack modern amenities, e.g. education, and their basic needs go unfulfilled. Aisha sighed with a heavy heart and said, “People laugh at us for having so many daughters and no son, especially my relatives, who do not see that this as a twist of fate.”

Aisha is not alone in facing the issue although it is wide-raging in low economic countries. While the preference for a son is global phenomenon, it can more intensively be observed in South Asian countries. In a patriarchal society, women are under intense pressure to give birth to sons to satisfy their husbands and consolidate their marriages. In India, due to patriarchal culture preferences for a son stem form economic considerations and cultural norms. In Pakistan, preference for boys over girls is stronger in rural areas and it is culturally embedded due to a variety of reasons. A son is preferred because of his productive role in the household economy, as his remuneration is more than that of a girl; he is the inheritor of household assets, including land; a son carries the family’s name, and he is considered to be a source of support and protection for parents in their old age. On the other hand, girls are considered a burden, who will leave the household upon marriage. This is one of the major reasons for the lack of investment in building girls’ human capital.

From January 2017 to April 2018, the Edhi Foundation and the CHHIPA Welfare Organisation have found 355 cases of fetuses dumped in the garbage with Karachi having such 180 cases. Over 98% of the dumped babies were girls.

In the search of the desired number of sons, couples stay away from contraceptive methods and shorten birth intervals which have increased Pakistan’s population growth rate. Additionally, Pakistan is also far behind neighbouring Muslim-majority countries such as Bangladesh, Iran and Tajikistan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3 and 5 to improve maternal mortality and child mortality. Pakistan is considered the second-worst country to reduce the deaths of children under the age of five. Apart from it, the country has made far slower progress in reducing maternal mortality than other developing countries in South and Central Asia.

According to the Global Gender Gap Index report 2020, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen are indicated as worst-performers in the world, with the lowest managerial positions for women. Pakistan is the third-worst country in the world in terms of gender parity, ranking 151 out of 153 countries. It ranked 150th in terms of economic participation, 143 in education and 149 in health and survival.

Pakistan’s National Human Development Report and Human Development Index report 2017 indicates that in gender equality the districts of Sindh are the worst-performing. It is a societal created norm that families grow with a son and not with a daughter. Policymakers should develop policies to promote gender equality in Pakistan. For example, women constitute only 5.48% of the federal government employees. More investments are needed for girls and women to build their human capital so that they can play a more active role in their families, communities and the country. Only by having more girls in higher education and women in employment can the mindset of people embedded by the patriarchal values begin to be challenged.

Sultana Ali Kori is a sociologist and working as Field Researcher at Rural Support Programmes Network. She can be reached at


Ilorin-Based Non-Governmental Organisation, The Pious Muslim Women Feeds 2,000 Muslims

May 1, 2020

An Ilorin-based Non-Governmental Organisation, the Pious Muslim Women has declared plans to feed about 2000 Muslims across nine states during this year’s Ramadan fast as part of the group’s appreciation to Allah. Founder of the NGO, Dr.Hamdalat Yusuf, who said, added that this is the sixth in the series for the group since 2014 when it was established.

The group, she added in a statement, also congratulated all Nigerian Muslims on this year’s holy month of Ramadan, noting that Ramadan is one of Allah’s special favours for humanity and for which humanity could hardly express sufficient appreciation. “We members of the Pious Muslim Women therefore enjoin Muslims worldwide to abide by the scripturally prescribed tenets of fasting during Ramadan so we can all reap the benefits” Dr. Yusuf said. Every year, she continued, the Pious Muslim Women organises Ramadan Feeding Programme. “It is one of our many programmes aimed at benefiting the vulnerable in the society. Our Ramadan Feeding programme is a succor to widows, orphans and indigent Muslims in our community. “We cover the major towns of nine states in Nigeria in which most of our members reside.

The states are Kwara, Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Kaduna, Kano, Niger and Rivers States. “Our usual practice is to give raw food stuff such as rice, beans, garri, wheat, semovita and groundnut oil, amongst others,” Yusuf said, adding; “however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year, we decided to give a sum of N5000 to each of our beneficiaries.

The target is to feed about 2000 people across these states.” The distribution is as follows: Lagos 150=750,000; Ogun 100= 500,000; and Osun 250 = 1, 250, 000. Others are Kwara 250 = 1, 250, 000; Rivers 37 = 185, 000; and Oyo 160 = 800, 000. “Northern states of Kaduna, Kano and Niger which will account for the balance of 850,000 will be done in due course,” she said. Yusuf said the distribution of the Ramadan food support to indigent Muslims began on Wednesday April 22, 2020. “This year’s feeding exercise will gulp about N10 million to feed 2000 people.”

Yusuf added that Pious Muslim Women generates the bulk of its funds from the contributions of members not only in several states of Nigeria but are also in countries like Canada, UK, South Africa, Ghana, Dubai, etc.” She stressed that the organisation, whose activities are mostly online, was founded primarily to improve on the spiritual development of its members.

However, it has expanded its focus to accommodate welfare of the indigent ones especially the vulnerable in the society. Some of its programmes include youth empowerment through the free training of youths at its fashion training institute; providing support for entrepreneurial efforts of no fewer than 50 widows every year; scholarship grants to about 20 orphans at the three levels of education as well as ownership and maintenance of an orphanage where it takes full responsibility for 10 orphans from age infancy to age ten.


Meet The Inspirational Saudi Woman Holding The Global Tolerance Award

May 1, 2020

In recognition of her humanitarian efforts and social work, Rima Al-Ruwaisan has been given the Global Tolerance Award, which was launched by the Arab-European Conference for International Relations in Sharjah, UAE, with the aim to strengthen ties, commonalities, and dialogue between peoples.

Speaking to Sayidaty regarding her achievement, Al-Ruwaisan explained that she was awarded for her efforts and community work, and for her role in a number of national initiatives in Saudi Arabia, saying, “Our Arab and Islamic history set a standard for excellence, courage, and knowledge. What we need now is to maintain and grow such a legacy that has been defined and bestowed upon us by those who came before us.”

Al-Ruwaisan is currently preparing to launch the second edition of the International Town Festival, following the success of last year’s edition in Durrat Al-Riyadh. The festival will bring together different cultures to participate and entertain, offering their nation’s arts, heritage, and culture for everyone to experience and enjoy.

Speaking on the role and power of women in the Kingdom, Al-Ruwaisan explained that “Saudi society needs a woman who speaks of and makes a difference, one who contributes to moving the cultural and civic scenes forward in her society, a productive individual who gives the nation a sense of pride in the presence of other civilizations.”

She then stressed that “one individual with a unique touch has the power to influence everyone around her positively, to help her country progress, provide future generations with knowledge, and implant the virtue and values of understanding within them.” She also touched on the importance of “art, ethics, and law in serving humanity and facilitating lives,” and pointed out that shared morals give people the ability to adapt to others in more peaceful ways, steering them away from “hatred and narrow-mindedness.”

“In the past, our Islamic civilization was a blended one, in constant interaction with others. It had a great effect on other civilizations, and existed in an atmosphere of tolerance and coexistence, rejecting violence, conflict and extremism,” she continued. She emphasized on how the Islamic civilization was also influenced by the Persian, Greek, and Pharaonic civilizations, evident in Lisān al-ʿArab, and pointed out that the Christian civilization flourished under the Islamic civilization and produced key literally productions such as the translations of the books of Ibn Sina, Al-Khawarizmi and Al-Razi. It was during this period, she explained, that the Arabs found themselves more advanced than the West with its sciences, arts, and inventions, and even in its laws and legislations. However, Al-Ruwaisan then explained that, unfortunately, “what we see today is conflict or complete assimilation within other civilizations at the expense of our values, identity, and culture!”

She stressed that "we must not look at other civilizations as superior, and end up fixating on imitating them and losing our true selves in the process. Rather, she thinks we must instill in our children a sense of pride in our values, customs, and civil and human heritage, highlighting China and Japan as examples of nations who have developed while still retaining their values, culture, and language in the process. This means “that we reform what is within ourselves, contribute to the development of civilizations and cultures, and not reduce ourselves to being just imitators and consumers.”


Afghanistan- Women among 5 killed in Ghazni roadside bombing


(MENAFN - Pajhwok Afghan News) KABUL wok): At least five civilians, including two women info-icon , have been killed in a roadside bombing in the Andar district of southern Ghazni province, the governor's office said on Thursday.

A statement from the governor's house said the incident took place at around 6:00pm on Wednesday when a Taliban info-icon -planted roadside bomb struck a civilian vehicle in the Nazar Khan area of the district.

The victims, including two women, as many men and a child, were residents of the Kharwar district of central Logar province. They were travelling to Andar to meet their relatives.


Hope as 93-year-old Turkish woman recovers from coronavirus

11 Apr 2020

With her doctors standing by, cheering, 93-year-old AlyeGunduz has been discharged from an Istanbul hospital after recovering from the novel coronavirus following 10 days of treatment.

Her recovery from the disease that kills a disproportionate number of elderly patients offered some hope to health workers at Istanbul's Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty Hospital as they battle the outbreak, which is threatening to hit Turkey hard.

"It is promising because patients at this age and with chronic diseases are most of the time unable to recover because they are at highest risk from COVID-19," chief physician ZekayiKutlubay told AFP news agency.

"A 93-year-old woman walking out of intensive care sound and safe is inspiring for us as well as for other coronavirus patients at her age."

Suffering from hypertension, Gunduz, a farmer from Turkey's southeastern city of Batman, was taken to hospital on March 31 complaining of a high fever and stomachache. She was discharged on Friday.

Turkey has registered more than 47,000 COVID-19 cases - putting it among the 10 most-infected countries in the world. It has recorded over a thousand deaths, and the disease is spreading fast.

"Everyone is working arduously as if they are at war," Nuri Aydin, rector of Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty of Istanbul University, told AFP at the hospital.

Istanbul, Turkey's largest city of about 15 million people, has emerged as the country's virus epicentre with more than 60 percent of the nationwide cases.

The Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty has responded rapidly since the outbreak began in mid-March, turning its operating theatres into intensive care units and creating special COVID-19 sections - separating general patients from those infected with the coronavirus.

The physicians are currently treating 210 patients with 30 others in intensive care. One building has been allocated to treat only medical workers.

Some of the health workers isolate themselves from their families, staying in dorms or hotels to avoid spreading the disease to their loved ones.

"When they first hear the diagnosis, patients are naturally panicking. We advise them that this is nothing to fear. With healthy nutrition and morale as well as heeding isolation rules, it can be overcome," said head nurse MervePirecioglu.

Omer Faruk Bilici, 34, a practitioner at another hospital who caught the coronavirus, was discharged from Cerrahpasa after 20 days of treatment, including in intensive care.

"We have forgotten about ourselves, we are working day and night for the recovery of our patients," said Associate Professor IlkerInanc Balkan.

Despite the pressure they are under, colleagues of chief physician Kutlubay threw him a surprise 50th birthday party, while respecting social distancing rules.

Without blowing out the candles on the cake, Kutlubay, wearing a face mask, said: "Let it be like this now, but I hope it will change next year."




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