Iraqi officials announced that for this year’s Arbaeen march, millions of pilgrims from more than 80 countries around the world are taking part in the religious ceremony.
Ahead of this coming Saturday, which marks the occasion of Arbaeen, millions of people from different countries around the world have already begun their journey towards Iraq. They come this long rout to Karbala in Iraq every year to honor the 40th day of the martyrdom of the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the third Shia Muslim Imam, Hussein ibn Ali.
The Arbaeen march, also known by other names such as the Arbaeen Pilgrimage, the Arbaeen walk or Karbala walk, is in fact the world’s largest annual public gathering which starts in Najaf and ends in Karbala.
Like the years before, millions of pilgrims from all around the world are now on the way to reach Karbala and like the years before, Iraqi people have opened their arms to pilgrims and serve them as best as they can.
In fact, the hospitality and affection of Iraqis towards people of different races, cultures, languages, colors, and even different religions, has made the Arbaeen walk a symbol of universal freedom, compassion and social justice among all humans. On the routes of the Arbaeen pilgrimage, food, accommodation and other services are provided for free by volunteers.
Official reports say that the number of this year’s Arbaeen walk is estimated to be as high as pre-Covid-19 years. In this regard, the Deputy Governor-General of Karbala Aqil al-Fatlawi said in a statement that it was predicted that over 20 million pilgrims would participate in the Arbaeen March. He said the pilgrims coming to Karbala were of over 80 nationalities, mostly the Iranians, Afghans, and Arabs, including the Lebanese, Bahrainis, and Saudis, as well as European and African nationalities.
Iranians, the biggest group of Arbaeen pilgrims heading towards Karbala
Bordering Iraq from west, Iran sends the biggest number of pilgrims to Karbala every year. Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has said that so far, more than 3 million Iranians have crossed the border into Iraq to join the annual mourning ceremony of Arbaeen this year. Of all the 3 million pilgrims, he added, around 1.45 million have returned home from the neighboring country. “The movement is smooth and the pilgrims are moving comfortably in the six border crossings,” Vahidi said.
He also referred to Iran’s efforts to facilitate the travel of Iranians to Iraq. Vahidi noted that a great infrastructure has been established to address the large-scale ceremony, saying that just in Khuzestan, a border province hosting two of six border crossings, 1,000 mawkebs— or roadside service stations— were set up to provide services to people.
“We are seeing a new wave of pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala as we are nearing the Arbaeen day,” he maintained, adding also that “arrangements are being made for a comfortable ceremony as, for example, 16 trains have been prepared from Khorramshahr to Tehran, Mashhad, and Zahedan. To facilitate the travel.”
The Iranian airlines have also been active during these days and have placed their full capacities at the disposal of pilgrims. According to Iran’s state media, the first Iranian cargo flight on Saturday departed for Iraq, carrying food and water to Iranian pilgrims of Arbaeen in that country.
Iran is an important country for the Arbaeen pilgrimage not just because Iranians comprise the biggest group of travelers to Karbala, but because pilgrims from other countries, especially Afghanistan and Pakistan cross Iran’s eastern borders en route to Iraq. The pilgrimage is expected to reach its climactic point on September 17, the day of Arbaeen.