Every year, millions of Shia Muslims make the pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala, Iraq to mark the Arba’een holiday. The journey is already a difficult one, often made on foot and in crowded conditions. But now, climate change is making the journey even more dangerous, as temperatures in Iraq have been climbing to record levels in recent years.
The average temperature in Iraq has risen by almost 2 degrees Celsius since 2003, and summer temperatures have been especially high. In 2015, temperatures reached a record-breaking 54 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country. This increase in heat can be dangerous, and even deadly, for pilgrims who are not used to such extreme conditions.
Though many pilgrims take precautions, such as carrying water and wearing loose, light clothing, there is only so much that can be done to protect against the heat. In 2015, over 800 people died during the Arba’een pilgrimage, and many of those deaths were attributed to the extreme heat.
As climate change continues to make the world hotter, the Arba’een pilgrimage will only become more dangerous. Pilgrims will have to take ever greater precautions to protect themselves from the heat, and some may even be forced to give up the journey altogether. This would be a tragedy, not just for those individuals, but for the whole of the Shia Muslim community.
The climate is changing, and it is making the Arba’een pilgrimage dangerously hot. For centuries, pilgrims have made the trek to the holy city of Karbala to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn. But as temperatures in Iraq have risen, the pilgrimage has become increasingly difficult and, for some, even life-threatening.
Pilgrims often walk for miles in the searing heat, carrying nothing but a few bottles of water. Some carry tents and sleep in the open air, subject to the elements. The journey is tough under any circumstances, but as the climate changes and temperatures rise, it has become even more challenging.
There have been reports of people collapsing from heat exhaustion, and even dying, in recent years. In one particularly tragic incident, more than 40 pilgrims died after becoming caught in a dust storm.
The Iraqi government has taken some steps to try to mitigate the dangers of the pilgrimage, such as providing free water and Shade tents, but the reality is that climate change is making the Arba’een pilgrimage increasingly dangerous. With rising temperatures, it is only a matter of time before more tragedies occur.