Tehran Immigration and Passport Police say that despite the approach of the Shiite holy months of Muharram and Safar, the demand for passports has sharply dropped in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy director Colonel Ali Moradi, said, "In the months of Muharram and Safar, we used to receive about 7,000 passport applications every day in previous years. Currently, the demand has dropped to a mere 400 to 500 a day.
In addition to the pandemic hitting Iran hard, the country's economic crisis has deepened with the national currency losing 50 percent of its value making travel abroad problematic for ordinary people.
Following the downfall of Saddam Hussain in Iraq, the Islamic Republic has been allocating a considerable amount of budget and propaganda every year to hold a religious ceremony called the "Arba'een Walk."
Based on tradition, the Arba'een Walk is a fourteen-day practice of mourning the Shiite third Imam, Hussain ibn Ali, by visiting his burial site in Karbala, Iraq, on foot.
According to Shiite tradition, Hussain was martyred in the Battle of Karbala in 680 by order of the Umayyad Caliph, Yazid. He was beheaded along with most of his companions, with the women and children taken as prisoners.
The latest data, provided by the Islamic Republic official sources, show that the number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 25 million or more by 2016. On the routes of the pilgrimage, food, accommodation, and other services are provided for free by the Iranian government.
In recent years, the Islamic Republic has tried to present the Arba’een ceremony as its tour de force, trying to overshadow the annual Hajj pilgrimage managed by Sunni Saudi Arabia.
Nonetheless, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the authorities this year to downplay the next Arba'een ceremony, starting in 76 days.
Several Iranian and Iraqi officials, including Tehran's Ambassador to Baghdad, have noted that the ceremony would most probably be canceled this year.
However, some officials in Iran's border provinces, including the Governor of Mehran, say that although the chances of holding a full ceremony are low, they have been instructed to be fully ready for the occasion.
Last year, the head of Iran's Immigration and Passport Police said that more than one million passports were printed during the two months of Muharram and Safar, which showed a 77 percent increase compared with the previous year.