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.

 

Turkey warns post-coup crackdown ‘not completed yet’

ISIS claims deadly bombing in Syria Kurdish city

Morocco arrests 52 suspects planning to set up ISIS branch

Egypt has asked IMF for financial support

Cirque du Soleil calls off 40 shows in Turkey

Clinton camp accuses Trump of inviting foreign spying

Coalition opens formal investigation into Syria civilian deaths

Pope to journalists: 'World at war', but not a religious war

Egypt top Muslim cleric denounces murder of French priest

Russia denies meddling in US election campaign

Syria regime kills 16 civilians in Aleppo assault

Killer of France priest was 'Syria obsessed time-bomb'

Netanyahu defends war record after protest by parents of dead soldiers

44 dead in double bomb blast in Syria Kurdish city

Marketplace bomb in Yemen kills 7

Kuwait jails Shiite MP for insulting Arab Gulf states

Iran presidential election set for May 2017

Bahrain tries prominent Shiite cleric

Turkey planning anti-Gulen army purge before coup

Turkey issues more arrest warrants for journalists

Israeli raid kills Hamas member said to be behind attack

Saudi condemns "in the strongest terms" deadly attack on France church

Shabaab says suicide bomber was ex-Somali MP

Bahrain refers 138 ‘terror’ suspects to court

Brutal attacks reignite political friction in Germany

Weakened army still faces twin challenges in Turkey

Turkey detains top generals, prominent journalists in widening purge

Hamas 'summer camp' trains dozens of young people for war

Palestinians seek to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

UN hopes Syria peace talks can resume late August

Israeli authorities destroy 11 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Libya demands explanation over presence of French troops

ISIS claims attack on French church in Normandy

Erdogan accuses EU of not paying up under migrant deal

Study: Height down in some MENA countries

Iran denies presence of three Al-Qaeda operatives

Iran caps salaries in bid to end scandal

Kerry says US-Russia talks on Syria 'making progress'

Erdogan to visit Russia on August 9

More than 3,000 lost in Mediterranean in 2016

13 killed in Somalia suicide bomb attacks

Panama Papers reveal Italian bribes' paid to Algerian officials

Syria regime advances on rebels in Aleppo

Turkey detains veteran female reporter

Russia ‘far from US positions’ on Syria