Ashura, which mourns the killing of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and celebrates Shiite identity, has long symbolized the fight against oppression. This year, its chants have been turned against the government.
The large crowd of men congregated at the center of a mosque in the central city of Yazd, clad in black and beating their chests rhythmically in unison. They were commemorating Ashura, Shiite Islam’s most sacred ritual, showcased annually with great fanfare in Iran as a testament to the Shiite theocracy’s power and strength.
But this year Ashura looked different. The mourners who gathered in Yazd last month and in many other cities across Iran diverged unexpectedly from the script to target the clerical rulers of Iran, turning religious ballads into protest songs about the suffering of Iranians.
“For a city in ruins, for all of us held hostage, for the grieving mothers, for the tears of the marginalized,” the men sang “We are mourning thousands of innocent lives, we are ashamed of this raging fire. Oh rain, oh storm…