Large gatherings to be restricted in Ashura commemoration: Statement

Ashura rituals in Herat, Afghanistan, August 8, 2022.

The Taliban in a statement on Monday announced restrictions on large gatherings and group travel during the commemoration of the 10th of Muharram, also known as Ashura, in Afghanistan which will be commemorated on July 28.

In the statement, the Taliban assured that the freedom of the people during the 10th of Muharram ceremony remains intact and that security measures have been implemented to safeguard the occasion.

However, due to security concerns, the announcement specified that mass gatherings and group travel will be limited.

Last year, the Ashura ceremony in major cities like Kabul was held with restrictions. Notably, the Taliban had excluded the 10th of Muharram from the list of public holidays last year.

Ashura is a significant religious observance for Muslims, particularly for the Shiite community. It commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, in the Battle of Karbala in the year 680. The event holds great cultural and religious importance and is marked by processions, gatherings, and acts of mourning.

In Afghanistan, Ashura is observed by both Shiite and Sunni Muslims, although the Shiite community places greater emphasis on the occasion. The day is marked by various rituals, including processions where participants engage in self-flagellation and beat their chests as an expression of grief.

The Taliban’s decision to restrict large gatherings and group travel during Ashura comes in the context of security concerns and their efforts to maintain order and control over public events. As the country transitions under their rule, it remains to be seen how these restrictions will affect the way Ashura is observed by the people.