Afghan Shiites Embrace New Acceptance

Pamela Constable in The Washington Post:

ScreenHunter_11 Jan. 04 14.08 For the past week, caravans of cars have raced triumphantly around the Afghan capital, trailing huge green and red banners. Overpasses are draped with black cloth, and loudspeakers blare hypnotic religious chants punctuated with the slow rhythm of clanking chains.

This is Muharram, the 10-day period of ritual mourning — including emotional bouts of chest-beating and self-flagellation — observed by Shiites throughout the world in remembrance of Imam Hussein and other Shiite martyrs who died defending their faith in the 7th century.

But in Afghanistan, a Sunni-dominated country where Shiites have been a despised and oppressed minority during many periods of history, this Muharram is being observed with new boldness and political acceptance. It is a dramatic sign of the rapid emergence of Shiism under democratic rule in the seven years since the overthrow of the ultraconservative Sunni Taliban.

More here.