Shia Muslims across Lebanon and the Middle East mark Ashura today

Millions of Shia Muslims across the world have taken part in processions and services this week to mark the holiest days in the Shiite calendar, Tasua and Ashura.

Tasua and Ashura, the ninth and 10th days of the month of Moharram, are days of mourning in Shia Islam to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, according to The Independent.

Ashura involves reenactments of the Battle of Karbala in which Hussein died in 680 AD, and public processions of intense collective grief accompanied by poetry recitals. In many parts of the world, observers beat their chests and heads.
Some flagellate themselves with chains or swords to echo his suffering. The self-flagellation ritual, known as ‘Tatbir’ in Arabic and ‘Talwar Zani’ and ‘Qama Zani’ in south Asia, is a tradition that originates from southern Lebanon and Karbala in southern Iraq. It has been banned or strongly discouraged by many governments and Shiite religious authorities in recent years because of the associated health risks.
Many organisations, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, encourage people wishing to observe Ashura to donate to blood banks instead, but in Nabatiyeh, a town in the south of the country, the streets were awash with blood on Wednesday. Many mourners were observed cutting their foreheads and beating themselves, blood covering their white clothes.

In Beirut’s southern suburbs tens of thousands of men and women wearing black took part in a procession which ended in a speech by Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, in which he repeated an earlier declaration that this year’s Ashura is dedicated to the suffering of people in Yemen.
Many mourners carried Yemeni flags during the march and chanted anti-Saudi Arabia slogans. The Saudi kingdom is currently leading a bombing campaign against Shia Houthi rebels in the country, which has killed thousands of civilians.

The Beirut procession took place under tight security, as did processions in Iraq and Pakistan.

The debate over whether Imam Hussein was entitled to the position of caliph through his bloodline is where the two branches of Sunni and Shia Islam originate, and as such the holiday is sometimes used as an excuse for violence because of the marked sectarian differences in how it is celebrated.
Sunni Muslims celebrate Ashura as the commemoration of the victory God gave to Moses in Egypt.

Ashura marches in Kabul were subdued on Wednesday, with Afghanistan’s 500,000 Shia minority still reeling from an attack on a Shiite shrine the day before which killed 14 people and wounded 26. Many chose to mark the day at home instead after further security warnings from the government.

In Sringar in India, a curfew was imposed to stop the potential for violence.