Thousands of Shi’ite Muslims in southern Iraq are wrestling with a choice of religion or democracy before a pilgrimage which may prevent them from voting in elections to provincial councils on Saturday.
Pilgrims from the southern city of Basra are setting out on an arduous walk hundreds of km (miles) long to the holy Shi’ite city of Kerbala, far from the election centres where they are registered to vote. The pilgrimage for Arbain, or 40 days of mourning for the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein slain in battle at Kerbala in the 7th century, culminates in mid-February. (Photo: Pilgrims in Kerbala for Arbain, 27 Feb 2008/Mohammed Ameen)
“Kerbala is more important than voting, and so far I haven’t seen any candidate that deserves my confidence. I still have no job after the last election,” said Mohammed Ali, one of a group of pilgrims at a roadside tent.
Read here the full story from Mohammed Abbas in Basra. Missy Ryan in our Baghdad bureau reported last week that Iraq’s religious parties could face a backlash at the polls because voters have tired of too much religion in politics.