Iranians mark Ashura amid coronavirus

By Marina Villen

Tehran, Aug 19 (EFE).- Iranians on Thursday commemorated the Muslim religious celebration of Ashura amid a coronavirus lockdown.

Ashura, the 10th day of the Islamic lunar month of Muharram, is a major holiday for Shiites and marks the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein, at the hands of Umayyad Caliph Yazid I at the battle of Karbala in Iraq in 680 AD.

Scores of believers packed Tehran, although all non-essential economic activities have been closed since Monday to try and curb a surge in infections in the Islamic republic.

Men wearing black hit themselves on the back with chains to mark the occasion that is considered one of the causes of the split between Sunnis and Shiites, Islam’s two main groups.

With the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant this year, rituals were held outdoors with fewer people.

The Iranian authorities ordered that all celebrations take place in open spaces, on the streets, or in the courtyards of mausoleums.

“We have all tried to wear the face mask and use disinfectant alcohol and most of the ‘heiat’ (brotherhoods) in the northern area of ??Tehran celebrate the events in open-air spaces,” Amir Helali, 55, tells Efe.

The faithful believe that the Shiite 12 Imams are considered the intermediary between them and God.

“Hopefully, we get out of this disease, God help us,” says Helali, who lost his job during the pandemic.

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