Afghanistan Diary
Saturday, February 19, 2005

Today is marked by the celebration of Ashura, one of the holiest days of the Shiite calendar. Believers march or in some case flagellate themselves to commemorate the death of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.

It makes me very sad that I haven’t been able to see much of it. This was due to a combination of not managing to join a group, not wanting to go alone, not knowing where to go and having a car that did not start that day. The little I saw was from my neighborhood (which is not especially a Shiia neighborhood), although I also heard from people who have been able to observe more than I have.

Anybody who has watched CNN’s reports on the Ashura celebration in Iraq or Iran, expect to encounter an angry mob ready to destroy anything on its way and people flagellating themselves with sharp blades. Ashura in Kabul was nothing like that. Most (though not all) Shiias in Afghanistan are Hazaras, who form only a minority in this city, which might be why they toned the celebration down.

In town, I saw some cars and motorcycles, brandishing black or green flag with Persian writing on them, sometimes with some loudspeaker on top of the car. Deep in Shiia neighborhood, one could see in some mosques circles of people beating their chest and chanting, but all in a friendly and peaceful atmosphere, I was told. I heard that in one mosque, there were some scenes of gore, but I haven’t met any first hand witness.

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This is my diary. My name is Lev and I work in Kabul for a non-governmental organization (

Location: Kabul, Afghanistan
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