Bali to deport Syrian national for holding yoga gathering amid Covid-19 concerns

Participants wearing protective face masks perform yoga during World Yoga Day in New Delhi, India, on Sunday, June 21.
PHOTO: Reuters

The Denpasar Immigration Office in Bali is set to deport a Syrian national for holding a mass yoga gathering in Ubud amid public health concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Syrian citizen, identified as Barakeh Wissam, was reportedly responsible for organising an event at the House of Om Community Center on June 18 that was attended by more than 60 people, mostly foreigners.

According to the immigration office, Wissam violated a 2020 Health Ministry regulation on large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) as well as a 2020 Bali gubernatorial decree on Covid-19 prevention and mitigation. The latter stipulates that public events are limited to a maximum of 25 participants.

Wissam, the founder of House of Om, is in Indonesia under a temporary stay permit (KITAS) valid until Nov. 11, 2021. The immigration office has revoked his KITAS and he is currently being held at the Denpasar Immigration Detention Center.

“The mass yoga event did not have permission from the local village,” Denpasar Immigration Office spokesperson Arvin Gumilang said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The event violated [Bali’s] Covid-19 health protocol because [the participants] failed to apply physical distancing measures and wear face masks.”

Wissam and House of Om gained notoriety when photos of the mass yoga gathering circulated on social media, triggering outcry among netizens who slammed the apparent lack of compliance with prevailing health procedures.

Writer Jenny Jusuf shared on her Twitter page a series of images taken from the event, along with a remark criticizing the participants’ alleged disregard for public health in the region.

“The number of people [contracting] Covid-19 in Bali continues to increase. Do they even care?” @jennyjusuf wrote in the caption on Saturday.

In an accompanying thread, Jenny posted a screenshot of a written statement published by the Instagram page @houseofom.bali, in which Wissam called the event a “big mistake”.

However, the statement has since been taken down and replaced with an apology.

According to House of Om’s official website, Wissam founded the community center in 2016.

The community has since grown into an international movement with branches in Bali, Syria and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

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