BEIRUT/NABATIEH, Lebanon: Tens of thousands marched in Beirut’s southern suburbs Tuesday to commemorate Ashura, a Shiite festival marking the day Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein was killed.
At least 50,000 people gathered for a reading of the story of Imam Hussein’s death in the Battle of Karbala in 680, before a large procession began.
The mourners were dressed in black and most held flags and banners with the names of Imam Hussein and Zainab, referring to Hussein’s sister, who also played a role in the battle at Karbala and is honored by Shiites. They chanted, "Here I come, O Hussein," and occasionally slapped their chests. Some held pictures of Hezbollah martyrs and wore yellow scarves with the group's logo. Others wore green scarves.
Beirut’s southern suburbs, a largely Shiite area, were closed off to cars starting 2 a.m. Tuesday, a statement from the Internal Security Forces said earlier this week.
Tuesday morning, a major road near Beirut’s Downtown and the Zoqaq al-Blat area was also closed off by a group of civilians who parked a car and blocked the way, as members of a procession gathered nearby.
Similar processions took place in Baalbeck, Nabatieh, Tyre and other areas with large Shiite populations.
In Nabatieh, hundreds cut their heads with sharp objects, while people holding flags, banners and scimitars marched through the area.
Mustafa Jaber, who brought his four-year-old son to the procession, said he has been cutting his son’s head at the procession since the boy was six months old.
Men and women were seen wearing white clothes covered in blood, many of them holding children who had been taking part in the ritual.
Meanwhile, many commemorated the day by donating blood in a large tent for the Iranian Red Crescent set up in Nabatieh’s main square.
“Donate for what is beneficial for the people. Some drops of blood may save people on this day that Hussein was martyred,” one man said.