The camp was crowded for several days because all the PSDs (Personal Security Details) were on lockdown due to the celebration following the 40 holy days of Muharrum, 40 day of mourning to mark the anniversary of the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, who was killed in a battle in Karbala in 680 CE.CE stands for Caliphate Era. No one went into the city for four days.
Shite Muslims celebrate by performing passion plays, express grief in public and walk in parades through city streets where they carry a sarcophagus and whip their backs or foreheads with sticks, chains and swords. Many travel to Karbala in Iraq for pilgrimage. The 10th day of the mourning is Ashoura, the day Hussein was martyred and is the holiest day for Shite Muslims, the significance being that when Husayn was killed, the hope that Ali’s descendants would lead the Muslim world was crushed. The defining moment of the Shite/Sunni split.
Ashoura is often mark by men self-fagellation.
This year the celebration saw an increase in violence against Shite pilgrims walking to Karbala for the celebration. On February 11, 12 people were killed and 40 were wounded in Baghad during bombings that targeted the pilgrims. On February 12, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt packed with nails among Shiite worshippers in Karbala near the revered Imam Hussein shrine, killing eight pilgrims and wounding more than 50. And in the deadliest attack a female suicide bomber detonated herself in a tent that is set up along the route to Karbala to offer, food, drink and place to rest to the pilgrims. 40 people died and six were injured, mainly women and children.
A man carrying his injured child wrapped in a red and yellow blanket, screamed at onlookers: “What is my son’s fault? What did he do? What kind of belief system do these people have? Are they monsters?” Associated Press 02/13/09.