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Iraqi Shiite pilgrimage takes political turn

As the pilgrimage of Arbaeen in Iraq grows in strength, so do its political dimensions.
Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims walk to the holy city of Kerbala, ahead of the holy Shi'ite ritual of Arbaeen, in Najaf, December 8, 2014.  Arbaeen falls 40 days after the holy day of Ashura.   REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani  (IRAQ - Tags: RELIGION MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY SOCIETY) - RTR4H650
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NAJAF, Iraq — This year's pilgrimage of Arbaeen is different from previous years, as it now bears new political connotations in light of the developments in Iraq and the region. Arbaeen is a Shiite religious ceremony that commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Forty days after Ashoura, Shiites take part in a long procession that travels from different Iraqi cities to the holy city of Karbala, where Hussein was buried.

Iraqi Shiites have observed this ritual for hundreds of years under the different political regimes that have ruled Iraq. The ritual became a cultural celebration observed by a large number of Iraqi Shiites. In recent years, Shiites from other countries started to participate in this gathering.

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