After the end of the Iran-Iraq War and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, crossing the border between the two countries became possible again. Thousands of pilgrims then started to rush from Iran to the holy city of Karbala, Iraq, the site of the shrine of the martyr Imam Hussein (Muhammad’s grandson)-before returning home.
Bahman Kiarostami (son of Iran’s most celebrated filmmaker) first shows us how such a trip is prepared. Women wearing heavy chadors are herded into trucks that are covered with tarps, and loaded with Coleman coolers filled with ice. Then we are plunged into the chaos of a border post in the city of Mehran. Hundreds and hundreds of people claim their right to cross (in both directions), a lot of them using forged papers and/or doubtful arguments. The most determined ones simply climb over the fence. Such a flood of people can hardly be restrained. Sorting out who they are exactly is not easy, either: Iranians from Iraq going one way? Iraqi refugees in Iran, going the other, back home? Relatives of modern martyrs (from the war) headed for martyrs’ graves? Or real pilgrims? Or smugglers? They call themselves ‘lovers of Imam Hussein’ or ‘crazy for God’.
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