Ira­ni­ans flock to Iraqi city for pil­grim­age

The Myanmar Times - - World -

BARRED from Mecca amid an es­ca­lat­ing spat be­tween Tehran and Saudi Ara­bia, masses of Ira­nian Shi­ite faith­ful have con­verged on the holy Iraqi city of Karbala for an al­ter­na­tive pil­grim­age.

The row that has pre­vented Ira­ni­ans tak­ing part in this year’s hajj pil­grim­age is di­vert­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands to the shrine of Imam Hus­sein, one of the holi­est sites in Shi­ite Is­lam.

“I ex­pect the num­ber of pil­grims to reach a mil­lion, about 75 per­cent of them Ira­ni­ans,” Adel al-Mus­sawi, a shrine of­fi­cial, said.

Not all of those had planned to travel to Mecca but many of the 64,000 Ira­ni­ans who were al­lo­cated places for this year’s hajj ended up in the holy Iraqi city.

Vis­it­ing the Imam Hus­sein shrine does not have the same re­li­gious sig­nif­i­cance as the hajj, which is a pil­lar of Is­lam and there­fore an obli­ga­tion for Mus­lims who are able at least once in their life­time.

But fol­low­ers of the Shi­ite sect of Is­lam feel more at home in Karbala than in Mecca, where around 2300 peo­ple died in a stam­pede last year, in­clud­ing 464 Ira­ni­ans.

Iran has ac­cused Riyadh of in­com­pe­tence and of fail­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the 2015 dis­as­ter or take sat­is­fac­tory pre­cau­tions.

Talks broke down be­tween the two re­gional pow­er­houses and Ira­ni­ans were de­nied en­try. –

Photo: AFP

Ira­nian Shi­ite pil­grims ar­rive at the Sha­lam­cheh bor­der cross­ing near Basra on their way to the holy city of Karbala, south­ern Iraq, on Septem­ber 10.

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