Millions of Shia Muslims are gathering at shrines and mosques for
Ashura, which falls on the tenth day of the holy month of Muharram. The festival commemorates the slaying of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein at the battle of Kerbala, now in southern Iraq, in AD 680.
Shias beat their heads and chests with chains and knives, and gash their heads with swords to show their grief and echo the suffering of Imam Hussein.
Iraqi Muslims take part in a ceremony commemorating Ashura in the Shia holy city of Karbala Mohammed Sawaf/AFP Men sharpen blades to be used for self-flagellation rituals during Ashura, at a shop in Lahore, Pakistan Mohson Raza/Reuters Shia Muslims flagellate themselves with chains during an Ashura procession in Kabul, Afghanistan Omar Sobhani/Reuters Bloody knives are seen as an Afghan Shia Muslim flagellates himself during an Ashura procession in Kabul Omar Sobhani/Reuters A child beats his chest while taking part in a procession in Islamabad, Pakistan Faisal Mahmood/Reuters A man arranges knives to be used by Shi'ite Muslims to gash their heads during a commemoration for Ashura in Kerbala, Iraq Alaa al-Marjani/Reuters A Pakistani Shia Muslim devotee uses chains to beat himself in Lahore Arif Ali/AFP Shia Muslim men beat their chests in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq Safin Hamed/AFP Shia Muslim men flog their backs with knives on chains during an Ashura procession in Lahore, Pakistan Arif Ali/AFP A Kashmiri Shia Muslim devotee bleeds as he holds knives during an Ashura procession in Srinagar Tauseef Mustafa/AFP Shia Muslim men beat their chests during an Ashura procession in Istanbul, Turkey Murad Sezer/Reuters Shia Muslim women shout Islamic slogans as they mourn during an Ashura procession in Istanbul, Turkey Murad Sezer/Reuters Shia Muslims walk on hot coals during the Ashura festival at a mosque in Yangon, Myanmar Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters Shia Muslims perform with fire during a traditional mourning event in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq Haidar Hamdani/AFP An Iraqi Shia performs during the reenactment of the Battle of Karbala in Baghdad's northern district of Kadhimiya Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP An Iraqi Shia girl takes part in an Ashura parade in Baghdad's northern district of Kadhimiya Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP A child takes part in an Ashura ceremony in the village of Sanabis, Bahrain Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP A Bahraini Shia Muslim man poses for a picture during a ceremony commemorating Ashura in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP
Blood pours down a Shi'ite Muslim man's face after flagellating himself during a procession in Srinagar, Kashmir Danish Ismail/Reuters An Afghan Shi'ite Muslim man bleeds as he flagellates himself with chains during an Ashura procession in Kabul Omar Sobhani/Reuters
This year the festival is marked during a particularly turbulent time in the Middle East, which has seen an increase in sectarian violence alongside the spread of the Islamic Sate and other extremist Sunni groups, who believe Shia Muslims are apostates deserving death.