Karbala (Iraq)- Dressed in black, 21 million pilgrims from around the world massed in the Karbala on Saturday for the Arba’een.
Arbaeen marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for the 7th-century massacre of Imam Hussain and his kith and kin by the forces of tyrant Yazid.
The annual commemoration of the event sees men and women from across Iraq and beyond travel to Karbala, where Imam Hussain and his brother Hazrat Abbas bin Ali are buried, for one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.
After two years marked by the Covid pandemic and border restrictions, 21.2 million pilgrims have flocked to the city in central Iraq this week, said the organisation that manages Abol Fazal Abbas’ mausoleum.
Among them are five million foreigners, including a record of more than three million from neighbouring Iran, according to authorities in the two countries.
On the esplanade linking the mausoleums of Imam Hussein and Abol Fazal Abbas, devout recited prayers on Saturday.
Groups of men beat their chests to the rhythm of chants and the din of war drums, some of them slowly making their way around the two mausoleums.
The pilgrims waved black and red flags and banners and chanted Labayk Ya Hussain (We Have Come O Hussain).
Since the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, participation in Arba’een has been steadily increasing.
“Arba’een means different things to different people,” said Alex Shams, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago who specialises in Shia politics.
“For Iraqi Shias it’s very much an expression of their freedom after years of dictatorship and also pride in their Shia identity,” he told AFP. For others it’s an occasion to demonstrate Shia resurgence in the face of tears of suppression and unabated onslaughts by the groups like Daesh.
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