Kerbala, Iraqi Shiites celebrate Ashura in anti-Kurdish key

The celebrations took place yesterday in the holy city, to remember the killing of Mohammed's grandson. Over 25,000 agents assigned to the security of the faithful. Participants chanted slogans and songs against the Kurdish leader Barzani and the "separatist conspiracy in northern Iraq".

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslim pilgrims visited the holy city of Kerbala, Iraq, yesterday to ​​celebrate the festival of the Shura, which this year took on anti-Kurdish connotations. The Baghdad authorities allocated more than 25,000 officers to protect the safety of the faithful who took part in the recurrence that remembers the prophet Muhammad's nephew seven centuries ago.

In the recent past Sunni groups and jihadist movements - including the Islamic State (SI) - took advantage of the day to launch bloody attacks.

There were no major accidents this year; however, ceremonies were marked by singing and slogans against Kurdish leader Massud Barzani. Among them, "Barzani the arbiter of the division of the country" and "Do not believe we will give you Kirkuk."

On 25 September, the autonomous region in northern Iraq held a referendum on independence, which ended with an overwhelming victory in favor (over 90%  yes). The vote was also held in the controversial territory of Kirkuk.

Hamed al-Obays, one of the organizers of the procession, says the songs intend to counter the "separatist conspiracy in northern Iraq." Pilgrims marched beating their chests in an expression of mourning for the duration of the ceremony. Some of them also carried swords, dripping blood which also marked their clothes.

The annual celebration of the Shura celebrates the killing of Imam Hussein by the forces of Caliph Yazid in 680 AD, one of the central events of Shiite Islam. His death is part of the controversy over the Prophet Muhammad, which ended with the division between the Sunni and the Shiites.

Among the pilgrims, many were from neighboring Iran and other nations in the region who gathered in the holy city, about 80 km southwest of the capital. Millions throughout the Shi'ite world, from Lebanon to South Asian nations, have organized processions in their respective cities of origin, accompanied by traditional rituals including flagellation. (DS)