Sun, 27 Sep 2020

Despite an upsurge in coronavirus infections in Iran and a ban on weddings and large funerals, the country's famed gatherings of mourners during the Shi'ite month of Muharram will be held.

The controversial decision was announced earlier this week by Iranian President Hassan Rohani amid speculation he would bend under pressure from hard-liners who oppose any limits on religious ceremonies or closing shrines due to the pandemic.

Rohani, who said the Muharram commemorations 'cannot be canceled,' added that all gatherings must be held in line with health protocols.

'We want to mourn and not infect the mourners of Imam Hussein,' he said, suggesting that the gatherings that attract thousands will be limited, especially those held in closed spaces.

Muharram -- the first month of the Islamic calendar -- honors the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who was slain in a battle in Karbala in the year 680. Believers commemorate his death during religious rituals -- which include singing, passion plays, and chest beatings in mosques and on the street -- that reach a peak on the ninth and 10th day of Muharram, known as Tasua and Ashura. People are encouraged to cry or weep during the ceremonies to show their sadness.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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