Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

In pictures: Arbaeen in Karbala

Crowds in Karbala, Iraq

Several million Shia pilgrims have been marking the religious festival of Arbaeen, in the Iraqi city of Karbala. BBC reporter Jaafar Nasrawi is in Karbala and has sent these pictures.

The Iraqi flag

Arbaeen marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in 680 AD.

Crowds in Karbala, Iraq

The martyrdom of Imam Hussein was a key event in the schism between Sunnis and Shias in Islam.

A group of women wearing black

For nearly 30 years under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who was a Sunni Muslim and drew much of his power from Sunni tribes, it was forbidden to mark Arbaeen publicly in Iraq.

Elderly man walks with stick

Many pilgrims travel miles on foot to reach Karbala. Men and women walk separately.

Musicians in the crowd in Karbala

Many people wear the traditional ceremonial colours of black and green.

Crowds wave a Shia flag

Shias mark the event around the world. Hasnain, in London, emailed the BBC to say Arbaeen "teaches us about the meaning of sacrifice and to stand up against injustice and oppression".

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