TEHRAN – In the days leading up to this year’s Arbaeen Day, Iranian and Iraqi officials have made many preparations to organize the ritual in the best possible way, suggesting that this day may be an example of how the two countries are able to strengthen bilateral relations using their deeply rooted cultural ties.
During the recent visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iranian President Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi stressed the importance of these links between the Iranian and Iraqi nations.
Speaking in a meeting with al-Kadhimi, Ayatollah Raisi said the two nations have broad and deep historical, cultural and religious commonalities. “The relations between the two nations go beyond the geographical level and the neighborhood, and no factor can damage the inseparable bond between the two nations,” he added.
Arbaeen Day, which is observed by millions of Iranians and Iraqis every year, was the greatest embodiment of the strong cultural commonalities between the two nations. He played a major role in stimulating interpersonal interactions between two countries which had been at war with each other for eight years.
Arbaeen was not a new ritual. Its roots go back centuries. But commemorating it at the levels observed in recent years is an absolutely new phenomenon. During Saddam Hossein’s reign, Iraqi Shiites were prohibited from commemorating Arbaeen in large numbers. They could not organize the Grande Marche d’Arbaeen. But after Saddam’s overthrow, the number of Iraqis watching Arbaeen has grown steadily. In the years leading up to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of Arab pilgrims reached millions, with large participation from Iranians.
Arbaeen Day takes place approximately 40 days after Ashura Day, which marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) who was martyred during the Battle of Karbala on October 10, 680 (Muharram 10, 61 AH), almost 14 centuries ago.
Over the past decade, the Iranian and Iraqi peoples have started to participate in what has been called the Great March of Arbaeen, a procession in which millions of Iranians and Iraqis march on foot. in the sanctuary city of Karbala, in southern Iraq.
During their stay in Iraq, the pilgrims of Arbaeen, including the Iranians, are generally accommodated in the personal houses of ordinary Iraqis, which was an opportunity for the two peoples to know each other better and to break with the past with all his emotions. luggage.
But in recent years, certain difficulties have hindered this cultural interconnection. The presence of US troops in Iraq and its implications for provoking terrorist groups such as Daesh have created insecurity along the routes taken by pilgrims from Arbaeen to Iraq. Perhaps this is the reason why the Iraqi parliament passed a law obliging the Iraqi government to accelerate the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
During al-Kadhimi’s recent visit, Ayatollah Raisi told the Iraqi prime minister that the presence of US troops in Iraq was detrimental to the security of the country.
“The presence of foreign forces, especially American ones, in any of the countries in the region is detrimental to the security and stability of the region and the implementation of the law of the Iraqi parliament on the expulsion of American forces of the country can be useful in this regard ”, noted the Iranian president.
This year’s Arbaeen comes at a time when many Iranian and Iraqi officials are redoubling their efforts to get US troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.
US President Joe Biden said in late July that US forces will end their combat mission in Iraq by the end of this year. There are currently 2,500 US troops stationed in Iraq. the Arab press reported that Washington intended to transfer the Ain al-Assad base from Anbar to Jordan, and the Harir base from Erbil to Kuwait, with a view to the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq to the end of this year.
But Biden had said a group of US troops would remain in Iraq to “train and advise” the Iraqi military, a move that was widely seen as a way to extend the US military presence in Iraq, albeit under different pretexts.