Bremer Urges Arbaeen Pilgrims in Iraq to Be Vigilant
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2004 Security conditions in southern Iraq prompted the coalition's civilian administrator to issue a statement today promising the best possible effort to protect Arbaeen pilgrims while urging them to be vigilant and careful.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to converge on the southern city of Najaf for Arbaeen that starts April 9, a religious observance that commemorates the martyrdom of a Shiia religious leader.
"In light of the current unsettled security conditions in the south, and especially in the holy city of Najaf, we in the coalition urge all parties to exercise great vigilance and caution during the upcoming commemoration of Arbaeen," began the statement issued by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III.
Bremer noted that deposed dictator Saddam Hussein had repressed the observance. "Now, individuals who seek to take power through mob violence and by blocking Iraq's democratic path are also making it unsafe for Iraqis to worship God," Bremer's statement said.
The coalition administrator's statement said that while the fight to restore law and order continues, he calls on all Iraqis "to cooperate with the legitimate security authorities to thwart those who seek to disrupt this holy commemoration."
He noted that many Iraqis and pilgrims from other nations are wondering if they can safely observe Arbaeen, and he acknowledged that some governments have urged their citizens not to go to Najaf.
"Each individual must judge the issue for himself or herself with the counsel of their religious authorities," Bremer's statement said. "For our part, we and the Iraqi authorities will do all we can with limited capabilities to facilitate safety and security, but the pilgrims should make their individual judgments knowing that the dangers this year are very real."