Over the last 10 years, traveling merchant Hussein Alwan and his seven-member family never missed celebrating any Shiite religious occasion.
They visited Najaf, Karbala and Samarra several times, and on May 12 they made a daylong hike where they crossed the city of Baghdad from the south to the north to visit the shrine of Imam Musa bin Jaafar al-Kadhim, the seventh imam in Twelver Shiism.
In a telephone interview with Al-Monitor, Alwan said that these rituals have become part of him, and he feels proud to take part in them despite the security risks. His family’s convoy was targeted by an explosives-laden car May 12 in Saadoun Street, but this did not stop them from completing their journey to visit Imam Kadhim's tomb.
Alwan said proudly, “We dare all extremists and Islamic State [IS] members to prevent us from taking part in these rituals.”
Millions of Shiites feel that they should accept any challenge or risk to practice their religious rituals and to prove their cultural and religious identity. The number of participants in these rituals has increased year after year in conjunction with the escalation of sectarian conflict in the country.
The Shiite masses are prime targets for terrorist groups, and extraordinary security efforts are being constantly exerted by the Iraqi government to protect them.