Mourning of Muharram

Everywhere we turn, we see black flags, black posters, and black signs. It is the holiday week of mourning of the prophet Hussein who died over 1,000 years ago. It reminds me of celebrating the death of Jesus but only for a second. Here, since the government is religious, they have spent countless of tax dollars in decorating cities in black. We see them in Tehran, Isfahan, Sari, and Amol. Almost every bridge is decorated with flags of Iran and black flags. There should be no celebration, no happiness. I tried wearing a red shirt today but was advised to wear black or something not so bright … so I wore white. =)

Part of the mourning “tradition” is to join a group of men to promenade around town singing songs about the prophet and hit yourself with chains on your back or slap your hands on your chest with the others on beat. Some people do it softly but others really feel the mourning and hit themselves until they bleed [so they say, I haven’t seen it]. Of course, woman cannot participate, but stand behind the groups of men in support.

It is a sad event ingrained in the country and I start to feel depressed. On our way back from Amol, where Sara’s uncle lives, our taxi driver had the radio blasting to songs hailing Hussein, the prophet. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN. We hear this for an hour or so. Our driver is religious, wearing all black and singing along. I don’t exactly understand what they’re saying but I can feel the sadness. I try holding Sara’s hand and get reminded that PDA [public display of affection] is inappropriate in front of religious people. We sit quietly listening to the songs. I’m not against religious traditions, as I am sure there is something similar in all religions, that of mourning someone, sacrificing your body in one way or another. I am, however, against forced religion.

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