Millions of Arba'een pilgrims from around the world gather in Karbala
Millions of pilgrims, including a record number of Iranians, have gathered in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala to commemorate Arba’een, the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussain (AS).
Among the pilgrims, which usually number 20 million from around the world every year, many arrive in Karbala after trekking about 70 kilometers northward from the holy city of Najaf in a symbolic gesture honoring Imam Hussein.
Pilgrims enter the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala up to two weeks before Arba'een. This year’s Arba’een falls on Saturday, October 19.
Speaking on Thursday, Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said a total of 3.5 million Iranians had entered Iraq to take part in the ceremony, 1.2 million more than the number reported last year and topping previous participation records.
Fazli praised what he described as "good cooperation" on behalf of Iraqi officials in facilitating the process, adding that all branches of the Iranian government had also contributed to managing the huge pilgrimage.
Foreign pilgrims from other countries also participate in the event, with tens of thousands entering Iraq notably from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Lebanon.
The pilgrims are greeted by the generous hospitality of the Iraqi people, who provide them with food, water, transport and accommodation needed for the journey.
Many observers have highlighted that despite Arba'een being the world's largest annual peaceful gathering on earth, there has been substantially little attention from mainstream media to the major ceremony.
"The biggest gathering in the world is taking place these days, but it receives the least possible media coverage," wrote media activist Amir Abbas Sadegi for Iran's ISNA news agency on Friday.
Sadegi said coupled with the mainstream silence, certain groups have sought to undermine Arba'een by propagating false information.