Iraqi Shiites commemorate revered Imam Moussa Al Kadhim amid tight security

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi supervises safety measures to protect pilgrims in Baghdad

Powered by automated translation

Amid tight security, thousands of Shiite pilgrims on Sunday commemorated the anniversary of the death of a revered eighth-century imam in Baghdad.

A pilgrimage to the golden-domed shrine in Baghdad’s northern Kadhimiyah district is one of several major Shiite religious events that draw tens of thousands of pilgrims not only from Iraq but from abroad.

Pilgrims commemorated the death of Imam Moussa Al Kadhim, a great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and one of the 12 holiest imams revered by Shiites. He was put in prison by the Abbasid caliph Haroun Al Rasheed and died while incarcerated.

The annual commemoration culminated on Sunday with pilgrims carrying the imam's symbolic coffin, wrapped in a green cloth while some pounded their chests in mourning. Some flagellated themselves with chains.

Inside the ornately decorated shrine, a cleric recited the story of how Imam Al Kadhim was imprisoned and then poisoned by the caliph in 799 BC.

For days before the anniversary, pious Shiites from across Iraq go to the shrine on foot. Tents are set up along the road to offer free drinks and food as well as medical services.

To protect the pilgrims amid fears of attack by Sunni extremists, Iraq's security forces tighten security measures in and around Baghdad, closing off major roads that are used to reach the shrine.

Shiite pilgrims beat themselves as a sign of grief outside the golden-domed shrine of Imam Moussa Al Kadhim. AP

Late on Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi visited members of the security forces in Kadhimiyah and met officials to evaluate safety measures taken to protect the pilgrims.

In 2005, rumours that a suicide bomber had infiltrated a procession led to a stampede on a bridge leading to the shrine. Thousands of pilgrims panicked and many were crushed in the crowd. Others jumped off the bridge and drowned, leaving around 1,000 dead.

The authorities blamed poor crowd control and the climate of fear in Iraq for the disaster.

By Sunday afternoon, the authorities declared the event successful and secure.

Updated: February 28, 2022, 7:44 AM