During Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship the Arba’een pilgrimage was outlawed. He would kill or capture all those that would illicitly make the walk. Hidden snipers would shoot on site and undercover police men would dress as pilgrims to catch those taking part. Here in Jarburiya, men break from their pilgrimage to smoke a free shisha on the side of the road, the same secret road pilgrims would use when it was banned – Arba’een, Iraq, 2019
Different Shia groups culminate in Karbala for Arba’een, and with them come different ways of showing their respect for Husayn. Tribal groups from the south violently and repetitively hit their faces as they walk through the shrines. Some, even hit their backs with chains (something discouraged by the government and shrines). It’s said before Husayn was killed, he had called upon his followers to provide an army, and was promised 100,000 men. But when the time came, they fled. This flagellation is a way for pilgrims to repent for their forefathers’ cowardly act – Arba’een, Iraq, 2019
Arba’een: inside the world’s biggest annual pilgrimage
This photographic series documents the world’s largest annual pilgrimage: Arba’een. An event that commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali (the grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, who was killed by Yazīd on the 10th day of the month of Muharram), and takes place in Karbala, Iraq. This year, over 15-million Shi’a Muslims from all corners of the globe journeyed to the small city of Karbala, Iraq to pay their respects. Every single pilgrim is fed, watered, and sheltered completely for free by the generosity of local and international people throughout Arba’een. The event, which is not organised or facilitated by any official body or government, happens without shortages, any major incident, or terror attack. Pilgrims pass through two holy shrines to complete their journeys. They wave flags and banners and some reenact scenes, while others slap their faces and bodies, but almost everyone weeps – men, women and children alike.