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Iranian Pilgrims Flock to Karbala for Arbaeen Climax

Huge numbers of Iranian Muslim pilgrims are walking towards the holy city of Karbala for the annual Arabaeen mourning ceremonies despite attempts to magnify security concerns after the recent unrests in Iraq.

Arbaeen, which is the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam, Imam Hussein (AS).

Each year, millions of Shiites flock to Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, to perform mourning rites. Many of them also visit Imam Ali’s (AS) holy shrine in Najaf.

In the past few years, around 20 million pilgrims from all over the world, including Iran, have taken part in the mourning ceremonies in the Iraqi holy cities marking Arbaeen.

Unofficial reports say that the number of Iranians applying for a visa to go on the pilgrimage has, at least, tripled so far. The unrests in a number of Iraqi cities is suspected by Iranians to have spiralled by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia to deter the Iranian people’s Arbaeen pilgrimage and Iranian pilgrims intend to show that they are undeterred.

Imam Hossein (PBUH) was martyred in the 680 A.D. battle fought on the plains outside Karbala, a city in modern Iraq that’s home to the Imam’s holy shrine.

In the battle, Imam Hossein (PBUH) was decapitated and his body mutilated by Yazid’s armies. All of Imam Hossein’s male family members, relatives, friends, soldiers who all together formed a 72-member army were beheaded in an unequal war with a 30,000-strong army of the enemy in the desert of Karbala.

The occasion is the source of an enduring moral lesson for the Shiites.

Imam Hossein’s martyrdom – recounted through a rich body of prose, poetry and song – remains an inspirational example of sacrifice to Shiites, who make up a majority of the Muslim population in Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Bahrain.

This year’s Arbaeen ceremonies are held amid the western and Arab media’s negative propaganda and exaggeration of the recent unrests in Iraq to dissuade the pilgrims from traveling to the country but the bordering areas of Iran near Iraq are full of eager pilgrims trying to arrive in Karbala for Arbaeen ceremonies.

Iranian officials have declared that this year’s demands for Karbala visit in Arabaeen are 3 to 5 times more than the past years despite the media hypes about unrests in Iraq.

Calm was relatively restored in the Iraqi cities on Friday after a few days of protests.

A security source said on Saturday night that normal conditions had returned to Baghdad after the recent unrests, adding that cleaning of the capital city’s streets had started.

“Conditions in Baghdad are stable and have returned to normal,” the source told the Arabic-language Soumeriyeh news channel of Iraq.

He added that all streets in Baghdad except Jomhouriyat bridge had been reopened.

The source underlined that the security forces were present in the streets as usual and the municipality workers had started cleaning operations.

Meantime, Spokesman of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command Yahya Rasoul said on Saturday that the police had received no order to exercise force or violence against the protestors, although they did their best to stop saboteurs, and stressed that all provinces in Iraq are under control.

“There has been no order issued for exercising violence against the protestors and the security forces support the protestors and properties against the saboteurs who are after damaging and destroying the country,” Rasoul was quoted as saying by al-Soumeriyeh news channel.

He added that all Iraqi provinces are under control.

Iraqi Officials announced on Friday that “unknown snipers” killed four people in the country, including two civilians and two security forces.

Qais Khazali, the Leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Resistance Movement, revealed, in a press conference more than a month ago on August 26, that some political fractions in Iraq in a joint endeavor with some foreign powers are getting prepared for igniting demonstrations, because they are unhappy with Iraq’s current foreign policy.

“The problem is the ‘Deal of the Century’. They are after making the current administration abide by their demands…. Accordingly, we will witness new demonstrations in Iraq. The demonstrations are scheduled to begin in the tenth month (October). If you liked, record these words of mine. This is not my analysis; it is the information and intelligence I have. They also start with social media to pretend it is public opinion, but in reality they are being led by foreigners,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, Lebanon’s al-Akhbar newspaper disclosed that Saudi Arabia had handed a plot to the administration of US President Donald Trump to stir unrest in Tehran, Baghdad and Beirut. It shows that the three countries of Iran, Iraq and Lebanon are the main targets of the project which is aimed at stimulating the public opinion through the media in order to instigate street protests which would finally weaken the central government. The Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper went on adding that After Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman managed to coerce Head of MBC’s television network Walid Ibrahim to give in part of the shares of the MBC, through putting him behind the jail, bin Salman gained control over the MBC’s board of directors, injected $100 million into the network to spend it against target audience in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. Many may have not noticed that there were several rallies in Lebanon concurrent with protests in Iraq, but they failed to attract attention similar to what demonstrations in Iraq did. This remarkable synchronization will be noted by shrewd analysts.

Now, the Saudi plot is being materialized in Iraq, and that is why there is no internal political leadership heading it which makes it seem as if the protests were popular and spontaneous while the plot is riding a wave of economic discontent. The current situation in Iraq is very similar to what was supposed to become nationwide in Iran in late 2017 and early 2018. Both of these cases of protests claimed popularity and independence from any political leadership, and at the same time were heavily dependent on arrangements made and announced on social media.

Both senior Iraqi cleric Seyed Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim (the former Leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) have sought to take the lead, but were pushed back by demonstrators.

The US, Saudi, Israeli embassies and governments have thrown their weight behind the protests, raising suspicions of their involvement to yet another level.

New analyses reveal that 79% of hashtags about protests in Iraq on Twitter originate from Saudi Arabia and only 6% are from Iraq, in a stark contrast with claims that the recent days’ demonstrations are popular and spontaneous.

Iraq has been rocked by a new wave of protests over economic hardships and joblessness since October 01.

However, the timing of the start of the protests with the great march of Arbaeen arouse suspicions, as new findings show that Riyadh is resorting to the cyber space where it is stimulating the public on social media platforms.

A new analysis, released on Thursday, shows that, despite all the claims which try to frame the recent unrest in Iraq as a popular movement with no political intention or affiliation, only 6% of the calls for street demonstrations originated from Iraq and the dominant majority belonged to Saudi Arabia where almost 80% of the social media content is devised and posted.

It is not a new revelation that Saudi Arabia uses dozens of Twitter bots whose job in massive scale is to call protesters to join violent street rallies.

Even the volume of hashtags sent from Kuwait is bigger than Iraq, and 7% of pro-protests tweets are from the tiny Arab country in the South of Iraq.

The UAE, Egypt, the US and Yemen are the other countries which originated the tweets promoting anti-government protests in Iraq.

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