Iranian Shiites celebrate Ashura, one of the most important events in the Shia calendar. Ashura marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, in what is now Kerbala,Iraq. The death of Hussain Ibn Ali was the beginning of the Sunni/Shia split, which persists in Islam to this day. In the past, many Shia men demonstrated their devotion to Hussain by letting their blood flow freely from self-inflicted wounds.
Many of the male participants congregate together in public for ceremonial yelling chants,chest beating (matham/latmiya) as a display of their devotion to Hussain and in remembrance of his suffering. Women pay tribute to the time period by holding a Majilis, march in groups around the town, Certain rituals like the traditional flagellation ritual called zanjeer zani or zanjeer matam, involving the use of a zanjeer (a chain) are also performed. These are not religious customs but are popularly done for the sake of Imam Hussain and his family.