Nine-fold rise in number of Iranian pilgrims visiting Iraq via Mehran border: Official

Tasnim – Some 35,000 pilgrims left Iran to visit Iraq’s holy sites or returned to the country via Mehran border crossing in the western province of Ilam on Friday, showing a nine-fold increase compared to the same day last year, an official in the province said.

Speaking to Tasnim, Head of Arbaeen Headquarters in Ilam Province Ahmad Karami said the recent unrest in Iraq has had no effect on the arrival and departure of pilgrims in and from Mehran border crossing.

The official further emphasized that the passage of travelers is underway smoothly and in complete security.

He also said 35,000 people crossed the Mehran border on Friday, showing a nine-fold increase compared to the same period last year.

The remarks came after the Iranian Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Thursday, expressed sorrow over the sporadic unrest in a number of Iraqi cities in recent days.

The death toll from days of violent demonstrations across Iraq surged to 44 on Friday.

Arbaeen, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam.

Each year, a huge crowd of Shiites flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, to perform mourning rites.

In August, Iran and Iraq signed an agreement in Tehran to reopen the Khosravi border crossing and remove visa restrictions for Iranian Arbaeen pilgrims.

Iran and Iraq also agreed to raise the level of services and facilities for the pilgrims and enhance border security during the Arbaeen season, which will culminate in a large gathering in Karbala on October 19.