“Labek ya Hussein”

On Tuesday December 6, tens of thousands of Lebanese Shia Muslims gathered in Dahiyeh, the suburbs south of Beirut bombed by Israel in 2006, to commemorate the Ashoura holiday. The tenth day of Muharram – the first month in the Islamic calendar – is marked annually by Shia who mourn the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohamed, in Karbala, modern day Iraq, in the year 680.

Worshippers started the morning in mosques listening to a mullah recite the story of the killing of Hussein and his followers. Many weep as the retelling reaches the point when Hussein was murdered. The Hassanein mosque, which belonged to the late Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah, is a landmark in central Dahiyeh where hundreds of mourners gather. For decades, Fadlallah was the most well-known Shia religious figure in Lebanon and was revered across sectarian lines. He died in July 2010.

After the retelling of Hussein’s killing, mourners joined together and marched through the streets of Dahiyeh. Some carried religious signs, pictures of Iranian leaders such as Ruhollah Khomeini, former Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Mussawi (assassinated by Israel in 1992), and the flags of Hezbollah, Lebanon and Palestine.

The procession ended at a football field where Mussawi’s successor and current Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made a surprise public appearance – to the jubilation of thousands of roaring supporter – declaring: “We tell all those who bet on scaring us or threatening us that we are the companions of Imam Hussein, [and we] say he will never be humiliated.” He then left and continued his speech on TV screens from an undisclosed location.