Yesterday, Muslims across the world began celebrating Ashura – a festival which commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala.
Husayn was a grandson of Muhammad and his martyrdom in the year 680AD is one of the most pivotal moments in Islamic history – leading to a split between Shia and Sunni Muslims, and of course resulting in the violent divide which still exists today in the Middle East today, reports The Independent.
To show their love and adoration for Husayn, many devoted Shia men choose to self-flagellate by cutting themselves open with large machetes or whipping themselves with chains as a way of almost baring the pain of Husayn himself.
Images of the self-flagellation make for a graphic site as the streets run with streams of blood:
However the self-harm at the festival has understandably received its fair share of controversy leading some Shia leaders to fear that it paints them in a negative light across the world.
Others have suggested the self-flagellation should stop and that those who take part should donate blood instead.
As you can probably expect, the festival is a prime target for Sunni extremist attacks – such as those carried out by the Islamic State.
Kuwaiti authorities have insisted that they have stepped up security for Ashura.
Hopefully the festival will go on peacefully.
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.