KARBALA (Dispatches) – More than two million Iranian pilgrims have entered Iraq a week before annual Arba’een processions are held in the holy city of Karbala.
Speaking with Iran’s ISNA news agency, deputy chief of operations for Iran’s police force Hossein Sajedi-Nia said the pilgrims have entered Iraq during the past two weeks.
About three million Iranians have registered for the rally on Iran’s SAMAH automation system, a legal process which does away with the need to get an Iraqi visa, Iran’s Central Arbae’een Committee said.
A senior official also said on Saturday that more than three million Iranians have also registered to visit the holy cities of Iraq during the Arba’een season, which marks the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam.
Amir Moradi, the executive manager of a task force charged with handling the Arbaeen pilgrimage, said by 8:30 on Saturday morning, the number of people who have registered at the Samah website, has surpassed three million.
The Samah website has been launched by Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization to facilitate sending pilgrims to Iraq’s holy sites during the Arba’een season.
Moradi pointed to the Iranian provinces that account for the largest number of people registered to go on the pilgrimage to Iraq, and said Tehran, with 500,118 names registered, is on the top of the list.
This year, the four borders of Khosravi, Mehran, Chazzabeh, and Shalamcheh are open to the Arba’een pilgrims.
Thousands of non-Iranian pilgrims have also entered Iran, joining the trek for Karbala.
The foreign pilgrims come mostly from Iran’s neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Earlier this week, Sistan and Baluchistan provincial police chief Brigadier General Mohammad Qanbari said that more than 40,000 pilgrims had entered the country from Pakistan alone.
The reports come as millions from Iraq and around the world travel to the holy Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala to attend Arba'een.
The gathering is known to attract about 20 million participants every year. This year’s Arba’een falls on October 19.
The event marks the 40th day after the anniversary of the martyrdom of the third Shia Imam, Hussein ibn Ali (AS).
Imam Hussein (AS) was martyred along with dozens of his companions during a last stand battle against the tyrant of the time, Yazid I, more than thirteen centuries ago.
The martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) has turned into a symbol of righteous revolt and social and political reform.
Imam Hussein (AS) is consequently a highly-venerated figure not only among Shia Muslims but also among Sunnis and people of other faiths.
‘Enemies seeking to sow discord will fail’
This year’s Arba’een pilgrimage takes place as Iraq is recovering from several days of protests against mismanagement and corruption last week.
Some of the demonstrations descended into violence and bloody clashes. Violent protests have receded in the past days, however.
Last week, some Arab media outlets reported a US-backed plan seeking to influence the protests in a bid to create instability and push certain political agendas in the country.
Observers have pointed out that the timing of the provocations signals foreign-backed elements seek to undermine Arba’een processions, specifically through fueling antagonism towards Iran.
On Sunday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei tweeted that "Iran and Iraq are two nations whose hearts & souls are tied together through faith in God”.
The Leader said that an enemy plot seeking to "sow discord” between the two nations will fail.
Iraqis take pride in hosting pilgrims participating in Arba'een, many of whom are from Iran.
The event has consequently turned into a symbol of unity between the people of the two countries who deeply venerate Imam Hussein (AS).