Millions of Iranian Shiite Muslims from all walks of life poured into streets on Sunday to mark Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of their third Imam, while wearing gloves and face masks amid strict COVID-19 restrictions.

Shiite mourners annually take part in processions held in mosques and streets with different traditions to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s grandson Imam Hussein (AS) and his companions in Karbala.

However, this year’s Muharram ceremonies are different from the past as large gatherings have been banned due to the coronavirus pandemic and people have been advised to take part in outdoor events while observing social distancing rules.

The mourning ceremonies of Muharram reach their peak on the 9th day of the month, or Tasu’a, when Imam Hussein’s brother Abbas was martyred, and the 10th day, or Ashura, when Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his companions were martyred.

Around 680 AD, Imam Hussein (PBUH) along with his 72 followers was massacred in the battle of Karbala in Iraq by the forces of the tyrant ruler of the time, Yazid, the second Umayyad caliph.

Muharram ceremonies symbolize the eternal and unwavering stance of truth against falsehood and humanity’s struggle against tyranny, the cause for which Imam Hussein (PBUH) was martyred.

Shiite rituals and observances on Ashura consist primarily of public expressions of mourning and grief such as beating one’s chest as well as beating one’s back with light chains to remind the mourners of the pain and suffering of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his followers on that day.

Iranian people across the country traditionally cook and distribute charity food among their neighbours, family and the poor, but this year the tradition has been influenced by COVID-19 pandemic.

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