Millions of pilgrims from around the world are gathering in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala to commemorate Arbaeen, one of the most revered religious occasions on the Islamic calendar.
The annual Shiite event attracts about five times more people than the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage.
The 80-kilometer walk begins here in Najar, a ritual journey that typically takes five days to complete upon arrival in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala.
Iraqi officials say some 22 million people from around the world have taken part in this year’s Arbaeen – a record high attendance. Arbaeen commemorates the end of the 40-day mourning period for the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein.
While it is a Shia spiritual exercise, it’s not unusual to see Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians also partake in this pilgrimage, but with crowds, come worries about security. This is especially true in this area where ISIL terrorists remain a threat.
Despite the threats, Arabaeen’s message of freedom and compassion appears to be enough to draw millions out in defiance in a mass display of faith in humanity-beyond any seen around the globe.
CCTV’s Elmira Jafari reports from Washington.