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Iraqi Shi’ites crowd in Kerbala for Ashura amid pandemic

Large crowds of Shi’ite pilgrims gathered in Iraq’s Kerbala on Thursday (August 19) for the Tuwairij run held annually during Ashura, which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammed.

Like last year, it was held amid the spread of the coronavirus in Iraq.

Although local and religious authorities called for the respect of preventive measures, most pilgrims seemed to not wear face masks as they were pouring into the shrine of Imam Hussein, holding religious banners and chanting.

Shi’ites from abroad this year were able to travel to Kerbala to attend Ashura. Last year, authorities had decided against granting visas to religious pilgrims in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“This year, the run was special because temperatures were high, so we remembered the heat of the battle,” one of the participants in the run, Zayed Falah, told Reuters. In Kerbala, temperatures reached about 45 degree Celsius on Thursday (August 19).

Ashura falls on the 10th day of the lunar calendar month of Muharram and commemorates the martyrdom in 680 AD of Imam Hussein Ibn Ali, one of the grandsons of the Prophet Mohammed, whose death symbolizes a wider struggle against oppression and tyranny.

On August 19, Iraq recorded 8,012 new cases of coronavirus infections, including 457 cases in Kerbala.

(Production: Ahmed Saeed, Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen, Charlotte Bruneau)

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