First Published: 2013-01-03


Iraq Shiites flock to Karbala for Arbaeen


Shiite pilgrims throng shrine city for climax of Arbaeen mourning rituals amid tight security for fear of militant attacks.


Middle East Online

Marching to Karbala

KARBALA, Iraq - Shiite pilgrims from Iraq and around the world are to throng Iraq's shrine city of Karbala on Thursday for the climax of Arbaeen mourning rituals amid tight security for fear of militant attacks.

Over the past 10 days, the annual commemoration ceremonies are expected to have drawn up to 15 million pilgrims braving the threat of deadly violence by Sunni insurgents targeting the Shiite community in recent weeks.

Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.

Sad songs blared from loudspeakers throughout the city and black flags fluttered alongside pictures of Hussein and his half-brother Imam Abbas, both of whom are buried in the city.

"We are defying terrorism, and we are following the example of Karbala in sacrifice and redemption," said 40-year-old Mohammed Swadi, who noted that he had walked for 12 days from the southern port city of Basra for the occasion.

"This is not much when it comes to expressing our love for Imam Hussein."

Officials expect some 15 million worshippers to have passed through the city, which lies 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Baghdad, by the end of the commemorations.

Among them will be around 600,000 pilgrims from 30 different countries, leaving all of the city's 700 hotels packed to the brim.

The threat of insurgent attacks has spurred authorities to deploy 35,000 soldiers and policemen to Karbala, including 2,500 policewomen at checkpoints across the city, with aerial surveillance also watching over pilgrims.

Attacks on Shiites in just the past week have left at least 12 people dead, including an explosion along the route from Baghdad to Karbala on Wednesday that killed two pilgrims who were on the traditional walk to the shrine city.

Shiites make up around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide. They represent the majority populations in Iraq, Iran and Bahrain and form significant communities in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.


Iraq forces press Mosul assault

Clashes, air strikes end Aleppo ceasefire

UN call to extend Yemen truce falls on deaf ears

Turkey reports over 35,000 people in detention after coup attempt

In violation of constitution, Iraq parliament votes to ban alcohol

French FM annoys Turkey by contrasting states of emergency

UN planning for 150,000 displaced by Mosul battle

UAE jails Sudanese man for planning attacks on immigrants

Qatar in 3 days of mourning for former emir

16 civilians dead in bombardment of Syria's rebel-held Idlib

Civilians suffer in IS 'smoke war'

74 jihadists dead after IS assault on Kirkuk

Nearly 100 civilians dead in Turkey-backed Syria op

Kuwait says more work required to counter IS funding

Mosul refugees under IS fire at Syrian border

Morocco king calls for public administration reform

Israeli air force strikes Gaza

Russia not considering renewing Aleppo ceasefire

Israel minister: ‘we will completely destroy’ Gaza in next war

Mosul battle sees highest number of US air strikes yet

Palestinians free four held after visiting settlement during Sukkot

IS executes five Iraqis in western town

Baghdad denies Ankara taking part in Mosul operation

Iraq forces fight to tighten noose around Mosul

Turkey hits Kurdish group in Syria again

Kremlin aims to 'liberate' Syria with Assad in power

Egypt court upholds 20-year sentence for Morsi

Turkey PM warns EU: Turkey has alternatives!

Battles rage in Yemen despite three-day truce

For second day, Iraq forces clash with ISIS in Kirkuk

New report accuses Syria of chemical attack in Qmenas village

Islamic Jihad stages show of force in Gaza

UN says 'crimes' in Aleppo are 'of historic proportions'

IS sniper kills Iraqi journalist in Kirkuk

US official says coalition should target IS in Raqa after Mosul

Moscow extends Aleppo ceasefire

Italy PM says officials should have voted against UNESCO Jerusalem resolution

Syrian ‘Toy Smuggler’ accused of fraud

UN: IS may use civilians as human shields in Mosul

Armed men attack refugee boat off Libya

US says will work with Turkey to deal IS 'lasting defeat'

Moscow ‘highly concerned’ at jihadists’ refusal to leave Aleppo

Four Palestinians arrested by their security forces for settlement visit

Mauritania president says no change to two-term limit

UN delays Aleppo evacuations due to lack of security assurances