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23 Oct 2018 | 01:28 PM UTC

Middle East/Asia: Shi’a Muslims to celebrate Arba’een October 29-31

Afghanistan News Alert

Shi'a religious celebration of Arba’een October 29-31; major pilgrimage to Karbala (Iraq); heightened risk of attacks, increased security presence

TIMEFRAME expected from 10/23/2018, 12:00 AM until 11/1/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Baghdad). COUNTRY/REGION Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Lebanon, Turkey, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Bangladesh


The annual Shi'a Muslim religious celebration of Arba’een is set to take place from Monday, October 29, to Wednesday, October 31. Millions of pilgrims have begun converging towards the city of Karbala (Iraq). Associated gatherings and smaller processions are also expected to take place in other countries with a significant Shi’a population. Business closures and transportation disruptions due to celebrations and processions are expected during this time, especially in Shi'a neighborhoods. Increased congestion on roads leading to Iraq and in airports throughout the region is anticipated.

The threat of terrorism and violence against Shi'a worshippers from Sunni extremist groups, including the Islamic State (IS), is considered higher during Arba’een. As such, an increased deployment of security forces around celebrations and along land borders is to be expected.


Arba’een falls 40 days after Ashura, ending a period of mourning commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. Around 20 million Shi'a Muslims gather yearly in Karbala. 


Individuals are advised to exercise caution during Arba’een celebrations due to the heightened risk of attacks; avoid all gatherings and refrain from visiting any religious sites which may be the target of attacks.. Individuals throughout the region should be particularly respectful of local customs and beliefs.


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