Ramadan begins, overshadowed by conflict for many in the Middle East

Falluja, already suffering water, food and medicine shortages, is being bombed by Iraqi forces.

Thousands of Turkish people break their fasting on June 6, 2016 at the Blue Mosque square in Istanbul, during the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. More than a billion Muslims observed the start of Ramadan on May 6 but in the besieged cities of Syria and Iraq residents struggled to mark the holy month. Marking the divine revelation received by Prophet Mohammed, the month sees Muslim faithful abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex from dawn to dusk. They break the fast with a meal known as iftar and before dawn have a second opportunity to eat and drink during suhur. The month is followed by the Eid al-Fitr festival. Picture: AFP.

NEW YORK - Muslims around the world began observing Ramadan on Monday, Islam's holy month during which believers abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

But among those displaced by fighting in Iraq and Syria, many families say that tough living conditions will make it difficult for them to participate this year.

Falluja, already suffering water, food and medicine shortages, is being bombed by Iraqi forces, allied Shi'ite militias and aircraft from the US-led coalition, in an offensive to retake the city from Islamic State militants.

Many families have fled to a nearby makeshift camp, where they say they have little electricity to keep them cool in the blistering heat of the daytime fasting hours, and little food to break the fast at dusk.

"Who can fast this year? Doesn't someone who fasts need to eat? We have nothing," said 75-year-old Shukriya Na'im, in comments echoed by many others in the camp.

"We used to lead a comfortable life when we were at our home. We used to fast and welcome Ramadan with happiness but now our life in the tents is so hard, diseases are rampant and it is too hot," Sana Khamis, also displaced, said.

In Damascus, many complained that economic hardship caused by Syria's five-year conflict made it hard to enjoy the month's festive spirit.

Ramadan traditionally begins the morning after the sighting of the crescent moon. In most countries it began on Monday, although some Muslims in countries including Oman, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon - were due to start a day later. The daily fast often ends with a large evening meal.