Look past the blood-soaked men, meet the women and kids of Ashura

Published October 22nd, 2015 - 04:46 GMT

Warning: some of these images may be distressing for viewers. Tomorrow, millions of Muslims will celebrate Ashura, an important holy day that marks the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in the year 680 at Karbala in modern-day Iraq; and the day Noah left the Ark. Every year the holiday spawns shocking images of blood and gore, self-inflicted wounds on a communal scale. Did you know it's not only men who take part?

Ashura is observed worldwide for different reasons and in different ways. Sunnis consider it as a day of atonement. For Shiites, the day commemorates the Hussein's martyrdom. It always incites a carnival-like atmosphere with testosterone-charged rituals of bonfires, self-flagellation, and mud-throwing.   

Take a look at some of the important roles women and children play in the holy day.

 

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On Ashura, babies are dressed to commemorate young Hussein. Families gather to watch reenactments of the Battle of Karbala, and some make pilgrimages to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala that is regarded as Hussein’s tomb. As with Mecca and Medina, this site is closed to non-Muslims.

On Ashura, babies are dressed to commemorate young Hussein. Families gather to watch reenactments of the Battle of Karbala, and some make pilgrimages to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala that is regarded as Hussein’s tomb. As with Mecca and Medina, this site is closed to non-Muslims.

Some parents slice the tender foreheads of their small children, causing profuse bleeding with dramatic symbolism but with little real physical harm (though we can't speak for psychological damage).

Some parents slice the tender foreheads of their small children, causing profuse bleeding with dramatic symbolism but with little real physical harm (though we can't speak for psychological damage).

Does dousing bonfires with magical potions harm nearby children? His field studies observed women tossing herbs into the fires, casting spells and dispelling others' magic. Others prefer to burn their spells indoors using small braziers, as they believe outdoor magic can harm innocent kids.

Does dousing bonfires with magical potions harm nearby children? His field studies observed women tossing herbs into the fires, casting spells and dispelling others' magic. Others prefer to burn their spells indoors using small braziers, as they believe outdoor magic can harm innocent kids.

Maarouf's studies found that Ashura carnivals are mainly performed by rural females who belong to uneducated, poor, urban societies. Educated women from modern-middle-class urban families typically do not  participate in the holy day's ritual parades, chanting or covering their clothes and faces in mud.

Maarouf's studies found that Ashura carnivals are mainly performed by rural females who belong to uneducated, poor, urban societies. Educated women from modern-middle-class urban families typically do not participate in the holy day's ritual parades, chanting or covering their clothes and faces in mud.

On Ashura, babies are dressed to commemorate young Hussein. Families gather to watch reenactments of the Battle of Karbala, and some make pilgrimages to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala that is regarded as Hussein’s tomb. As with Mecca and Medina, this site is closed to non-Muslims.
Some parents slice the tender foreheads of their small children, causing profuse bleeding with dramatic symbolism but with little real physical harm (though we can't speak for psychological damage).
Does dousing bonfires with magical potions harm nearby children? His field studies observed women tossing herbs into the fires, casting spells and dispelling others' magic. Others prefer to burn their spells indoors using small braziers, as they believe outdoor magic can harm innocent kids.
Maarouf's studies found that Ashura carnivals are mainly performed by rural females who belong to uneducated, poor, urban societies. Educated women from modern-middle-class urban families typically do not  participate in the holy day's ritual parades, chanting or covering their clothes and faces in mud.
On Ashura, babies are dressed to commemorate young Hussein. Families gather to watch reenactments of the Battle of Karbala, and some make pilgrimages to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala that is regarded as Hussein’s tomb. As with Mecca and Medina, this site is closed to non-Muslims.
On Ashura, babies are dressed to commemorate young Hussein. Families gather to watch reenactments of the Battle of Karbala, and some make pilgrimages to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala that is regarded as Hussein’s tomb. As with Mecca and Medina, this site is closed to non-Muslims.
Some parents slice the tender foreheads of their small children, causing profuse bleeding with dramatic symbolism but with little real physical harm (though we can't speak for psychological damage).
Some parents slice the tender foreheads of their small children, causing profuse bleeding with dramatic symbolism but with little real physical harm (though we can't speak for psychological damage).
Does dousing bonfires with magical potions harm nearby children? His field studies observed women tossing herbs into the fires, casting spells and dispelling others' magic. Others prefer to burn their spells indoors using small braziers, as they believe outdoor magic can harm innocent kids.
Does dousing bonfires with magical potions harm nearby children? His field studies observed women tossing herbs into the fires, casting spells and dispelling others' magic. Others prefer to burn their spells indoors using small braziers, as they believe outdoor magic can harm innocent kids.
Maarouf's studies found that Ashura carnivals are mainly performed by rural females who belong to uneducated, poor, urban societies. Educated women from modern-middle-class urban families typically do not  participate in the holy day's ritual parades, chanting or covering their clothes and faces in mud.
Maarouf's studies found that Ashura carnivals are mainly performed by rural females who belong to uneducated, poor, urban societies. Educated women from modern-middle-class urban families typically do not participate in the holy day's ritual parades, chanting or covering their clothes and faces in mud.

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