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The corona-virus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to Iraq’s religious tourism sector over the past two years. Back in 2020, the Iraqi government faced the same dilemma as other countries when considering measures to curtail the spread of the virus. Baghdad’s decision to close border crossings and sharply limit the entry of foreign nationals was met with consternation at home, particularly from Iraqis whose livelihoods depend on Shiite pilgrims.
Iraq’s religious tourism sector was already reeling from widespread opposition protests that swept the country in Oct. 2019. When the pandemic subsequently emerged, it decimated what little business was left—costing the country billions of dollars in lost revenues and countless jobs. After two years of highly limited foreign arrivals, Baghdad and Tehran are reportedly maneuvering to revive religious tourism, with an eye on the upcoming Arbaeen pilgrimage in September...
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