Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

#TECH 24

Motorsport innovation

Read more

ENCORE!

Jennifer Jason Leigh on 'Patrick Melrose' and all-female casts

Read more

REPORTERS

Video: Turkey tracks down the opposition, beyond its borders

Read more

PERSPECTIVE

Crisis averted: What lessons have been learned from Cape Town's water shortage?

Read more

REVISITED

Video: Shenzhen, from fishing port to China’s Silicon Valley

Read more

FASHION

Dior trots out Cruise collection at Chantilly stables

Read more

IN THE PRESS

'I really don't care', do we? Melania Trump's coat chaos

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Eurozone agrees 'historic' deal to pave way for Greece's bailout exit

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

South Sudan rebels say more time needed to achieve peace

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2017-11-20

Exclusive: From Tehran to Najaf, a pilgrimage fraught with danger

It’s one of the most dangerous pilgrimages in the world. Every year, despite the deadly menace of the Islamic State group, millions of Shiites make a pilgrimage to southern Iraq, to visit the shrines of Karbala and Najaf. For five days, our reporter followed a group of young Iranian students on their risky journey from Tehran, in Iran, to Najaf, in southern Iraq. She bring us this exclusive report.

It’s one of the most dangerous pilgrimages in the world. Every year, millions of Shiites flock to southern Iraq for the Arbaeen pilgrimage to Najaf and Karbala, two holy cities located south of Baghdad. The event marks the end of a 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual that commemorates the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson Imam Hussein, who was killed in battle at Karbala in 680 AD. Dressed in black, pilgrims arrive from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Gulf. They come to pay their respects at the shrine with the golden dome where the prophet’s grandson is buried. As a sign of mourning, they beat their chests against a backdrop of religious chants.

This year, nearly two and a half million pilgrims have come from the neighbouring Islamic Republic of Iran. To embark on this perillous journey, they must travel for almost two days on a long road, by bus or on foot, and cross the border between Iran and Iraq, one of the most highly secured in the world.

>> Watch our interview with French Defence Minister Florence Parly: "Islamic State group changing strategy"

We followed Fatemeh, a young Iranian student who is making the pilgrimage for the first time, against her parents' advice. She will get her first glimpse of the shrine of Imam Ali. Security is not a topic of conversation with her friends, despite the regular warnings from their group leaders. The tanks and patrols nearby are enough to remind them that last June, around 30 people were killed in a suicide bombing near the Karbala shrine. The jihadists of the Islamic State group consider Shiites to be heretics.

Before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iranians were banned from the pilgrimage and authorities made it difficult for Iraq’s Shiites, who make up a majority of the population, to take part. Since 2003, the number of pilgrims has steadily increased to 20 million last year and nearly 15 million this year. While the threat against them is now ever-present, Shiites want to use this pilgrimage as a way to celebrate their religion.

By Mariam PIRZADEH

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2018-06-22 Europe

Video: Turkey tracks down the opposition, beyond its borders

Ahead of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, our reporter went to meet members of the Turkish opposition, who have received little airtime in the...

Read more

2018-06-15 Africa

Video: Fishing far from home, from Senegal to Brittany

In the western French region of Brittany, Senegalese fishermen board trawlers in the early morning to catch fish for the local markets of Guilvinec and Lorient. They have come to...

Read more

2018-06-08 Europe

Video: Meeting Russia’s World Cup volunteers

More than 35,000 people will work without pay for FIFA during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. These volunteers will welcome guests in the 11 host cities, help translate, handle...

Read more

2018-05-25 Florence GAILLARD

'We heard there might be a civil war': May 68 seen from abroad

In France, May 1968 has become a symbol of young people and workers in revolt. But how were the events viewed outside the country? FRANCE 24 looks back at the international...

Read more

2018-05-18 Middle East

Beyond the conflict: Reporter's notebook in modern-day Israel

Israel regularly makes headlines, but there is more to the country than the conflict with the Palestinians. FRANCE 24 reports from a young but highly developed nation, a holy...

Read more