Ancient Kurdish rain ritual revived in Syria as drought continues

QAMISHLI, Syria — Following successive droughts, residents of al-Malikiyah and Qamishli in northeastern Syria are reviving an historic ritual known as Ziwa, or Bride of the Rain, to push back any additional rain delays.

And their efforts could have paid off. On Jan. 2, rain showered the Syrian metropolis of Qamishli and its surrounding cities. Shihab Abdo, 70, who owns a plot of agricultural land within the village of Shorck within the countryside of Qamishli, instructed Al-Monitor, he carried out the traditional “Bride of the Rain” ritual on Jan. 1 together with different residents of the village to push back drought. “God answered our prayers and it rained the next day. We are happy with the rain that will save our seasons from drought,” he stated.

The village of Derona in Qamishli revived the rituals on Dec. 14. Abu Shafwan, a farmer from Derona, instructed Al-Monitor, “Children make a doll out of wood and dress it up in colorful clothes. They carry the wooden doll, the Ziwa, which in Kurdish means ‘rain doll,’ and roam the village, knocking on doors, praying for rain and asking for some wheat. The villagers sprinkle water on the wooden doll and give the children wheat, meat and sweets.”

Ahmad Hani, 49, from the village of Tal Khanzir in al-Malikiyah’s countryside, practiced this ritual as a toddler and is now educating it to his grandchildren due to the drought.

“I practiced the Ziwa ritual 43 years ago. Our mothers used to make wooden dolls for us, and we used to knock on all the doors; housewives would give us wheat and sprinkle water on the Bride of the Rain. We would then wish them a long life and rainy seasons,” Hani instructed Al-Monitor.

“We would move from house to house, collecting sweets and clothes, chanting a well-known weather chant, asking God to grant the owners of the house better seasons. Today, the majority of those who celebrate Ziwa only offer different types of food to children,” he added.

Shirwan Ghareeb, 60, a farmer from the village of Hilweh within the Qamishli countryside whose youngsters and grandchildren participated within the Ziwa ritual in his village on Dec. 16, defined to Al-Monitor the explanations for reviving the traditional ritual within the Kurdish neighborhood: “We ask the heavens for mercy and to bless us with rain, as our fields have dried up due to rain delay and we are worried about losing our crops this season, which could harm our animal wealth. We are farmers who live off agriculture and livestock, so we pray to God to bless us with rain so that we do not face the threat of famine.”

He stated the Ziwa ritual has gained nice significance, particularly for the reason that report drop in rainfall.

Ghareeb, like different farmers, suffered extreme losses over the previous harvesting seasons. “Last year I planted wheat and barley, and because of rain delay, I had nothing to harvest. We also suffered from drought the year before, as our fields burned and the fire consumed all our livelihoods. We are afraid of going hungry if rain delay persists.”

International humanitarian organizations have warned of the worsening meals insecurity all through Syria and a attainable famine threatening the nation, calling for fast motion to avoid wasting the livelihoods of Syrians amid the lasting drought.

A latest research by the Middle East Institute for Research and Strategic Studies revealed on Dec. 10 known as for saving Syrians from famine and creating fast options to stop them from slipping into excessive poverty. The research revealed that an unprecedented disaster of poverty and starvation will knock on the doorways of varied Syrian areas amid the ever-deteriorating financial disaster, the repercussions of the Caesar Act and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farmer Sarbest Ali from the village of Hilweh instructed Al-Monitor that an actual disaster is going through agriculture in Syria, as a lot of the agricultural areas rely on rainfall. “We are facing the worst drought, and Syria is an agricultural society that depends for its livelihood on agriculture and livestock breeding. The rain delay and scarcity of seasonal rains will negatively affect our livelihood with the outrageously high prices and the spread of COVID-19, which is exhausting the country.”

The newest report issued by the UN World Food Program (WFP) revealed that 60% of the inhabitants in Syria, about 12.four million folks, endure from meals insecurity.

Estimates of the Food Security and Livelihoods Assessments revealed in February 2021, which the WFP introduced in cooperation with its companions, revealed that the variety of folks going through acute meals insecurity has doubled, and they’re unable to stay with out meals assist.

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