Watching A’shura

Posted on January 23, 2008. Filed under: photo album | Tags: , , |

Red Hands

On Saturday, we went to A’shura in Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon. As I understand it, this is one of the only A’shura ceremonies in Lebanon where blood-letting takes place. It’s a disturbing sight to watch men tap each other with straight razors to get the blood flowing, sometimes so profusely that it drips down their noses and coagulates around their ears.

Participants pause

It’s also a media-relations nightmare for the rest of the Shi’a (and Muslim) community, most of whom, including Hezbollah followers, condemn the practice of self-inflicting wounds as a legitimate way to mimic the suffering of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

Little boy on gurney

Making matters more difficult is that parents sometimes encourage and—given the age of some participants—coerce their boys to affirm their faith in this way, too.


Paramedics treated self-inflicted injuries gone bad as well as offered water and alcohol to sterilize blades.

Like a Cell Phone

My husband, Mohamad, who is Shi’a, tells me that he suspects that many of the participants aren’t “that religious.” It’s an opinion shared by a 12-year-old boy from Nabatiyeh who told one journalist/blogger last year “It’s just a bunch of guys showing off.” Couldn’t the dagger in this picture as easily have been a cell phone?

Woman Alone

I watched this woman for a long time. She stood out to me because she was alone and kept checking her cell phone. She told me the napkin was for the smell of the blood. People wearing or holding surgical masks to their noses and mouths was a common sight.

The play

Thousands of people crowded the town center and the grandstands to watch the reenactment of the Battle of Karbala, complete with a rotating set and sound effects.


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