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To Karbala: Surveying Religious Shiʻa from Iran and Iraq

This survey captures the attitudes and beliefs of religiously observant Shiites by surveying Iranians and Iraqis on pilgrimage to Karbala for the Shiite holy day of Arba’een. When we conducted this survey in the days leading up to and during the Arba’een celebrations of 2015, 22 million pilgrims reportedly participated in the ritual procession to the Imam Hussein Shrine in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala—over ten times as many visitors as the Hajj in Saudi Arabia that year.

This survey would not have been possible without the advice and guidance from several colleagues from academia and from members of our team in the field. First, we would like to thank Abdullah Hammadi, our survey manager, for going above and beyond in facilitating and overseeing the conduct of this survey. His great instinct for social science and his logistical genius were instrumental to the success of this project. Great thanks also go to Kufa University President Dr. Aqeel Abd Yassin Al-Kufi for his hospitality throughout the survey and particularly to Professor Hassan Nadhem, who holds the UNESCO Chair for Inter-Religious Dialogue Studies in The Islamic World, for identifying a terrific group of Kufa University students for survey training and enumeration. Our enumerators demonstrated great energy, integrity and attention to detail throughout the survey and all fifty one of them are named in a separate section of this report. We are also truly grateful to our survey supervisors Faris Kamil Hasan, Maytham Hasan Machi, Wael Adnan Kadhim, Faris Najem Harram and Nidhal J. Gdhadab for their leadership and relentless work ethic.

For advice on surveying in Iraq, our great thanks go to Professor Amaney Jamal and to Michael Robbins who generously shared their experience from the Arab Barometer; to Nandini Krishnan, for sharing the instruments and data from the World Bank household economic survey for Iraq; and to Neha Sahgal for discussing her experience with the work of the Pew Research Center in Iraq. We are also truly grateful to all the scholars and practitioners who provided input on the survey along the way, with special thanks to Professor Roy Mottahedeh. For early input on the project, we would also like to thank Dr. Sabrina Mervin and Geraldine Chatelard. For help in translating the Arabic survey instrument, we want to thank Sora Hamedi. For the Farsi survey instrument our thanks go to Nikoo Saber for her assistance with translation and to Sajedeh Goudarzi for her overall input. We also want to recognize Atiyeh Vahidmanesh from the Virginia Tech Economics Department for her generosity in sharing her cleaned version of the data originating from the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI). Great thanks also go to Marsin Alshamary and to Ramisa Shaikh for research assistance at the early stages of this project.

Fotini Christia carried out the data collection associated with this project while on an Andrew Carnegie fellowship and gratefully recognizes their support. She also recognizes support from ARO MURI award No. W911NF-121-0509.

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