Arbaeen: Iran minister in Iraq to discuss pilgrims' entry

Iranians comprise one of the largest contingents of foreign pilgrims at the annual religious event

Shiite Muslim pilgrims march with flags en route to Karbala from Nasiriyah in Iraq's southern Dhi Qar province on September 5, 2022, before the Arbaeen holiday.  AFP
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Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi arrived in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss ways to ease the passage of Iranians through Iraq for a major pilgrimage this month, Iraq's government said.

The Arbaeen pilgrimage is one of the main religious events observed by Shiites.

It marks the end of the 40 days of mourning after the anniversary of the killing of Prophet Mohammed's grandson Imam Hussein at the battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

Iranians comprise the biggest foreign contingent of pilgrims, with tens of thousands making the journey — many walking at least part of the way from Iran to Karbala in large convoys.

The pilgrimage takes place on September 16 and 17, with pilgrims offered food and drink by volunteers.

Iraqi Interior Minister Othman Al Ghanimi received his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad on Thursday. The pair discussed issues including “the entry of the Iranian pilgrims to Iraq and ways to organise the process”, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.

Mr Vahidi “lauded the significant role played by the Iraqi security forces to protect the Arbaeen pilgrims, to offer services and to secure all roads they go through on their way to holy Karbala”, it said.

Shiite Muslim pilgrims march with flags en route to Karbala from Iraq's southern province of Al Muthanna on September 6, before the holiday of Arbaeen. AFP

Last year, the Iraqi government eased coronavirus travel restrictions for foreign Shiite pilgrims planning to observe the Arbaeen pilgrimage. It allowed 80,000 pilgrims to enter Iraq, of which nearly 60,000 were Iranians.

This year, no limits have been applied, with the number of visitors to the gold-domed shrine expected to exceed 10 million, according to government estimates.

In 2019, 14 million people attended Arbaeen commemorations in Karbala, a third of them from overseas countries including Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan and Gulf states, official figures showed.

As of Wednesday, about 1.3 million pilgrims from different nationalities had entered Iraq from border crossings and airports, the Commission of Border Crossing Points said.

Every year, chaos erupts at the border crossings with Iran as rundown facilities struggle to cope with the large numbers of devotees attempting to enter.

Several Iranian pilgrims have died this year in car accidents and due to heat, Iraqi authorities have reported.

Arbaeen 2021 in pictures

Updated: September 08, 2022, 1:54 PM