In Iran, Ashura is the most important Shia event on the religious calendar. It commemorates the massacre of Imam Hossein, a great figure of Shiism. During this 40-day period, Iran dresses in black (the color of mourning) and green (the color of Islam). It is then not advisable to wear bright colors, “it could be misunderstood,” say Iranians.

Before the first day of Muharram, it is difficult to become aware of the magnitude of the event. Everything becomes dark, gigantic and gloomy. During Ashura no joyful celebration should take place. On this subject, some Iranians warn me: “If you go to the evening be careful, the police don’t laugh during Ashura. If they catch people in the evening, there will be no tolerance. Grief must be felt in your actions.” At that time, the Iranian football team was playing in the World Cup qualifiers. The Iranians laughed at it: “Imagine if we score a goal, the whole stadium will have to shut up and make a funeral face instead of exploding with joy. I can’t wait to see it!” Iran did not win, they could not exalt themselves from that moment. 

During this impressive event, celebrated even in the most remote countryside, traffic jams in Tehran become infernal. The division then occurs between those who occupy the main boulevards to parade in silence and those who are saturated with an omnipresent religion. 

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The Iranians crowded to the central meeting point a few minutes before the ceremony began.

The battle of Kerbala (October 10, 680, Iraq) ended in the burning of the tents of the Iman Hossein family whose members died in the fire.

To pay tribute to their Imam, the Shiites set white tents on fire in public squares. Men are invited to turn around the flames, to the rhythm of religious songs. Meanwhile, women are gathering around them.

During the month of Muharram, men gather at nightfall and invade the streets. They hit their backs with links to simulate the floggings suffered by Iman Hossein during his massacre in Kerbala.

Food and tea distribution stands are scattered throughout Iran, from chic Tehranese neighbourhoods to isolated countryside.

The entrance to the Great Mosque of Qazvin. This picture was taken on the first Friday of Muharram. Friday is the day of prayer, it was a very important day for the devout Muslim. On the poster is the Great Leader.

However, one village preserves its traditional and colorful face during Ashura – Abynaeh. This village, located near the town of Kashan, is widely used by tourists, especially to admire these women dressed in flowery veils.

On the day before the night ceremony in Ashura, I went to this village to admire the beauty of the place. The Ashura procession takes place in the same way. In the middle of the afternoon, everyone set about joining the march. First, there was the rally where the Iranians exchanged in a mournful tone. Then, the sound of drums and the voice of the Imam began to resonate. The ceremony begins. As they parade down the street towards the mosque, the men firmly hold their links to hit their backs. This march is in line with the afternoon prayer, the last before the final evening of commemoration. The crowd is massive in front of the mosque. The Imam and drums close the march as the villagers entered the mosque.

Two children play with chain links before the commemoration. These chains are used to simulate the floggings suffered by Imam Hossein.