Dec. 5 - Shi’ite Muslims in Iran and Iraq prepare for Ashura, the festival commemorating the death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hussein. Nick Rowlands reports.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends a ceremony in Tehran to mark the ninth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Around the country, millions of Iranian Shi'ite Muslims prepare for Ashura - the tenth day of Muharram - with self-flagellation and religious mourning rites to commemorate the death of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson, Hussein. According to Shia history, Imam Hussein and 72 of his loyal companions were killed while fighting for justice in Karbala, Iraq, in 680 AD. Ahead of the culmination of the festival, security in the holy Iraqi city was tight. Ashura is the most important and dramatic annual rite distinguishing Shi'ite Muslims from Sunnis and has become a show of strength for Iraq's long-repressed majority sect. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) POLICE COLONEL ALI KAREEM, SAYING: "Thanks to God, no security violations have happened yet because all the checkpoints are being well-managed by the army and police, under tight supervision by officials." Over one million pilgrims are expected to converge on Karbala for the height of the Ashura ceremony on Tuesday. Nick Rowlands, Reuters.