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An inside perspective on Ashoura ceremonies in Syria’s Damascus

The primary rituals and observances on Ashoura consist of public expressions of mourning by beating of the chest, head and back

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Syria’s Damascus and its neighboring suburbs are seeing unprecedented gatherings of crowds as Shiite militias and Assad regime forces take a break from the conflict to commemorate the annual Ashoura ceremonies.

In past years, most of the Shiite Ashoura ceremonies were isolated to pilgrim-centered places like the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque in southern Damascus.

The capital’s voice media network reported Shiite militias setting up temporary checkpoints around the old Damascus while some routes and highways were cordoned off for the ceremonies.

Ashoura is marked on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, by all Muslims.

However, it is a particularly important day for Shiites as it marks the anniversary of the 7th century Battle of Karbala in present day Iraq, when Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was killed.

The primary rituals and observances on Ashoura consist of public expressions of mourning by beating of the chest, head and back.

*This article was originally published in Arabic on AlArabiya.net.