The multi-layered security measures are meant to prevent unauthorized travels to Iraq and halt pilgrims heading to border crossings without a passport or an Iraqi visa, Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Hossein Zolfaqari, who is also in charge of a headquarters handling the Arbaeen pilgrimage, announced Wednesday.
According to the official, Iraq’s embassy and consulates in Iran have issued 650,000 visas for Iranian pilgrims so far, saying the number has increased by 72 percent compared to the previous year.
Zolfaqari also noted that the process of granting Iraqi visas to Afghans residing in Iran began a few days ago, saying 15,000 Afghan nationals with an official residence permit have so far applied for visas.
As regards the catering facilities in the 15-day pilgrimage season, the official said around 1.5 million free servings will be distributed among the pilgrims for every meal, noting that more than half of the services will be provided inside Iraq.
Arbaeen, which is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam, Imam Hussein (AS).
Each year, a huge crowd of Shiites flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, to perform mourning rites.