The Turkish consul general in Basra, Faruk Kaymakçı, attended the Ashura rituals in the predominantly Shiite city in a province of 3.5 million Arabs.
“I would like to reiterate once again that Turkey has always been on the side of the Iraqis, both in days of happiness and grief, and still is. We will continue to do so in the future as well,” Kaymakçı said in a speech he delivered to a gathering of Iraqi Shiite Muslims. “The people in Turkey also share the same grief on this day and both Turks and Iraqis have common values,” Kaymakçı emphasized in a speech, which was also broadcasted live by local television stations.
Shiite religious leader Sayed Jasim Al Tuwairjawi, who directed the ceremonies, also welcomed the Turkish consul's participation in the events, saying the most important aspect of this year's remembrance is to have a Turkish diplomat among the Shiite audience. “This showed everyone that both Sunnis and Shiites can live peacefully together,” Al Tuwairjawi said, adding that politics and religion should be kept separate.
He also praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's attendance of fast-breaking dinners organized by Alevis in Turkey in the past, as well as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Shiite and Alevi places of worship during his visit to Germany last week. “These gestures should be taken as an example by the Muslim world and all of humanity,” Al Tuwairjawi underlined.
More than 3,000 people attended the rituals, the largest in Basra province. The day of Ashura commemorates the death of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Husain in the battle of Karbala in A.D. 680. Ashura is a religious observance marked every year by Muslims. The word “ashura” literally means “10th,” as it is the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year. Ashura is a traditional observance that is now recognized for different reasons and in different ways by Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Turkey opened a consulate in Basra in 2009 with the goal of expanding the economic, political and cultural ties between the two countries and of reaching out and embracing all parts of Iraq.