Iraqi Shiites continue pilgrimage despite blast, Covid-19

Baghdad, Mar 9 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites continued Tuesday to make their way on foot to the Baghdad shrine honoring martyred eighth century imam Musa al-Kazim despite this week’s blast at the site and a spike in coronavirus cases.

Pilgrims set out three days ago from across Iraq for the mausoleum that holds the remains of Al-Kazim, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who was the seventh of the 12 imams venerated by Twelver Shia Islam.

Participants seemed undeterred by Monday’s grenade explosion near the shrine, which left one person dead and a dozen others wounded, according to the Iraqi army.

The observance, set to culminate on Wednesday, is marked annually by millions of Shiites around the world. This year, with new Covid-19 cases averaging some 5,000 a day in Iraq, the government imposed a curfew and other measures aimed at preventing large agglomerations of people.

Even so, men, women and children clad in black filled the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday.

“Neither terrorism nor the coronavirus will prevent us from this spiritual visit,” Haider al-Yasiri, 30, told Efe while walking to the mausoleum.

Rituals commemorating Al-Kazim’s 799 death inside a Baghdad prison will conclude Wednesday.

Shia tradition holds that Al-Kazim was imprisoned and poisoned on the orders of Caliph Harun al-Rashid.

Twelver Shiites are known for fervent expressions of devotion to the imams on their respective anniversaries, including prayers, weeping and self-flagellation to symbolize martyrdom and sacrifice, highly esteemed in Shia Islam. EFE


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