Roughly 300 kilometers south of Baku, Azerbaijan’s booming capital with its glitzy boutiques and five-star hotels, lies a different reality.
Groups of humbly dressed, unshaven men in black shirts flocked to mosques in mid-October in the town of Lenkoran to listen to marsiye – a mournful elegy performed by a white-turbaned cleric to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and his comrades in the battle of Kerbala, a defining moment for the world’s 100 million Shias. The mosque is situated near the town’s bazaar area, filled with small shops trading everything from teapots to screwdrivers. Tables were lined up beside the mosque for ehsan giving – free food and tea for the faithful.
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Eldar Mamedov is a political adviser to the Socialists & Democrats Group in the European Parliament. He writes in his personal capacity.