Authorities shut down Iran-Iraq border crossing ahead of Ashura ceremonies
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Authorities at a Kurdistan Region border crossing with Iran on Monday shut down operations after crowds swarmed a nearby town to travel to southern Iraqi areas and participate in a holy Shia pilgrimage known as Ashura.
The move comes as Iranian authorities restrict domestic travel amid surging COVID-19 cases and record-breaking daily reported fatalities due to the highly contagious disease.
"The decision came because a large number of citizens and would-be Iranian travelers gathered in Qasr-e Shirin," read a statement from the Parwezkhan International Border Crossing, from the Iranian side. It is unclear how long the border closure would last.
Qasr-e Shirin is a city in Kermashan province, part of the Kurdish region of Iran close to areas where large numbers of Shia Muslims live.
The statement explained that the people were planning on coming to the Kurdistan Region and to Karbala and other Iraqi cities from there to participate in the Ashura religious commemorations.
Shia Muslims around the world participate in religious ceremonies on Ashura, the tenth day of the month of Muharram on the Islamic calendar, to mourn the killing of Imam Hussein in the seventh century. Millions of pilgrims would participate in the event annually before the COVID-19 pandemic.