Iraqis Demand Better Security for Pilgrims

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On May 15, the Shiite Endowment issued a statement that in one week, around 12 million Shiite visitors flew to Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district to commemorate the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, who died in the year 799.

On the night of May 14, rioters set fire to the property of the Sunni Endowment and other residences in the Adhamiya Sunni neighborhood, which faces the Shiite city of Kadhimiya.

Media reports showed video footage of groups of Shiites attacking the property of the Sunni Endowment and the houses of Sunni residents. A young man waved victoriously in front of the burned buildings, celebrating revenge on Sunnis.

In an article published May 15, Al-Mada Executive Editor-in-Chief Adnan Hussein called this young man a fool, writing, “The perpetrators of this act are mentally prepared at home, school and mosques to carry out such acts through political and media discourse and sectarian propaganda and are driven by radicalism and fanaticism.”

Violence during religious events has prompted dialogue about sensitive religious issues once considered taboo, and calls for reducing the number of visitors to holy Shiite places. The May 14 incidents, however, are the first of their kind.

Since 2003, Sunni members and supporters of the Islamic State have been attacking Shiite visitors heading to Kadhimiya or to other Shiite holy shrines. The most notable incident occurred in 2005, when rumors spread about a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt among the Kadhimiya visitors, sparking panic.

People started pushing each other as they rushed to escape, and hundreds fell in the Tigris River. This incident caused thousands of deaths among the Shiite pilgrims.

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