WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT: Festical of Ashura is marked by Muslims drawing blood with swords in Iraq
The procession has previously been attacked by ISIS, leading to 25,000 security staff being sent to Karbala. Pilgrims chanted against Kurdish independence after referendum vote in northern Iraq backed the move .Believers wail and beat their chests to mourn the martyrdom of Mohammed’s grandson during the festival. Millions in Lebanon, Iran, Greece and across South Asia have also marked the annual commemoration.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims commemorated the seventh-century killing of Mohammed’s grandson by cutting themselves and children with swords and blades swinging from chains. Past processions have faced attacks from Sunni extremists including Islamic State, which today resulted in 25,000 members of Iraqi security forces being deployed to the shrine city of Karbala to protect believers.
Some chanted slogans against Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, like ‘Barzani you are the sponsor of dividing the country’ and ‘don’t believe we will ever give you Kirkuk’.
Barzani’s autonomous region in northern Iraq held a referendum on September 25 that saw voters overwhelmingly back independence for Iraqi Kurdistan. The vote was also held in disputed areas like the city of Kirkuk. Hamed al-Obays, one of the organisers of the procession, said the chants opposed the ‘separatist conspiracy in northern Iraq’. Pilgrims cut themselves with swords as they weep and beat their chests in mourning during the annual Ashura ceremonies.
The festival marks the killing of Imam Hussein by the forces of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD – a formative event in Shiite Islam. Imam Hussein’s death was part of a dispute over who should succeed Islam’s prophet Mohammed.