KARBALA/TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- More than 14 million people participated in the annual Arba’een processions in Iraq, officials said on Monday.
Jassim al-Fatlawi, deputy governor of Karbala, said estimates showed the number of pilgrims this year was higher than last year’s.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who traveled to Karbala, held a meeting with provincial officials to check security plans and services for the pilgrims.
Serving Arba’een pilgrims is a major human, moral and religious duty, he said.
Arba’een marks 40 days after the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam, and his 72-strong companions in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.
Every year, millions of Muslim mourners set out on a symbolic 80-kilometer-long walk that begins from the holy city of Najaf in Iraq, where Imam Ali (AS)’s shrine is located, to the holy city of Karbala that houses Imam Hussein’s (AS) shrine.
Others, mainly from Iran, travel long routes to reach the Karbala congregation, the largest human gathering in the world.
Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Rostam Qassemi on Sunday said around 59,000 Iranian pilgrims had traveled to Iraq to partake in the annual procession, but media reports on Monday put the number north of 80,000.
In Tehran, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei called on Iranian students to uncover the truth and eliminate the ambiguities created by the enemy’s propaganda campaign against the Iranian nation.
“You, dear students, who are the fruits of the nation’s heart and the true hope of the country, light up your surroundings like a beacon and dispel ambiguities by paying attention to the issue of illustrating truths,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The Leader addressed a group of University of Tehran students via a video conference during a mourning ceremony held on the occasion of Arba’een.
Ayatollah Khamenei said while the day of Ashura, on which Imam Hussein (AS) was martyred, was the peak of Imam Hussein’s struggle and self-sacrifice, and the ensuing 40-day period was the peak of the struggle to illustrate and uncover the truth, made possible by the Imam’s daughter, son and others who kept the events of Karbala alive.
The Leader touched on the opportunities, which cyberspace and social media networks offer for enlightenment and clarification of the ambiguities.
“However, the definite principle in the jihad of explaining and telling the truth is to use moral methods and express issues with logic, equanimity and complete rationality, taking human sentiments into account, and avoiding insults, slander, lies and deception in the face of the public opinion,” he said.
“The path of Hazrat Seyyed al-Shuhada (Imam Hussein) is a blessed and sweet path that will lead to a definite outcome and success, and you, the youth, will be able to take the country to the zenith of physical and spiritual well-being, inspired by this path and enlightening knowledge, God willing,” the Leader added.