About 21 million Shia pilgrims from around the world gathered in the Iraqi city of Karbala on Saturday for the Arbaeen memorial, which marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for the seventh-century assassination of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. .
During the annual event, men and women from all over Iraq and beyond travel to Karbala, where Imam Hussein and his brother Abbas are buried, for one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.
After two years marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and border restrictions, 21.2 million pilgrims flocked to the city in central Iraq this week, the organization that manages Abbas’ mausoleum said.
Among them are five million foreigners, including a record more than three million from neighboring Iran, according to authorities in the two countries.
The pilgrims waved black flags and banners with the image of Hussein.
This year, the commemorations take place against the background of a political crisis in Iraq.
Clashes between the two main Shia factions — the pro-Iran Coordination Framework and a bloc loyal to influential leader Muqtada al-Sadr — have prevented the establishment of a coalition government.
The crisis escalated to violence in late August, when al-Sadr supporters clashed with the army and troops of the Hashd al-Shaabi, former paramilitaries integrated into the regular army.
More than 30 al-Sadr supporters were killed.