Ashura in the holy month of Muharram, Iran.

Numerous public displays of intense collective pain follow in processions throughout the cities, men’s rows dressed in black parade melancholy accompanied by recitals of poetry and music while beating the chest with different rhythms to the sound of the drums or are flagellated with chains liveras back to echo their suffering while the audience watches with devotion. In these rituals both children and adults participate and although the blows usually do not lead to bleeding wounds, in some times of ecstasy they hit the head so hard that it is shocking. In some countries these rituals are performed with sabers and blades and there are those who make a breach in the forehead, ending with streets and flagellants covered with blood. Iran banned bloody celebrations in 1994, although some communities are criticized for their brutal rituals. Some Shi’ite leaders and groups criticize these practices, say it creates a negative and retroactive image of Shi’ite Muslims, and encourages instead people to make blood.

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