Women walk the Iraqi desert road for weeks dressed in costumes to embody the women taken hostage in 7th Century 

Following on from the success of his previous book BEYOND MOMENTS: MOROCCO and award-winning films ALI AND HIS MIRACLE SHEEPAL-BAGHDADI and DRIFTING ON THE WIND, Iraqi filmmaker and photographer Maythem Ridha is currently in production on his next book, an exhibition and a feature length documentary entitled TEAR MAKER.
We are currently in production with this project. In order to receive special invitations to exhibitions, book launch events and film screenings please also use our contact link above or the subscription from below to provide your details for the mailing list.
In 680 A.D. Damascus, Yazid Bin Muawiya usurps the Khilafa (Leadership of the Muslim world) beginning a tyrannical rule, which will change Muslim history forever, corrupting its teachings and setting a precedent of dictatorship and oppression by rule of the sword. One man, Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, refuses to submit to the tyranny of Yazid.

Al-Abbas, the brother of Hussain, was the flag bearer of his Army. As long as he stood firm the morale of the men remained high.


Pilgrims dress up and take on the characters for the pageant play - Zuhair Bin Qayn commanded the right flank of Hussain's army.

72 ordinary men with their wives and children follow Imam Hussain to Karbala, Iraq to confront Yazid's full army of professional soldiers. It is a journey to certain death.

They pray for mercy for their souls as they prepare themselves to die​​​​​​​

For Iraqis, the massacre of Karbala has become a symbol of the weak standing up for justice and against oppression. A symbol that every generation has absorbed into their reality and collective memory bringing their own versions of “the tyrant” to the story. For the last generation of Iraqis Saddam represented the tyrant Yazid. For today's generation ISIS and their self-declared Khalifa embodies the unjust Khalifa Yazid and his brutal army.

A young girls dressed as one of the prisoners marches in London on the anniversary of the massacre

Every year millions gather in Karbala at the scene of the battle to re-enact the events in a pageant play and to take part in the story played out over the 10 days of the battle. In Iraq it is not only Muslims but also the Christians and the Jews who commemorate this event and march to Karbala together and in the footsteps of Al-Hussain. This gathering is echoed in other cities across the world.

The pilgrims beat their heads in mourning to the rhythmic chanting of the Tear Maker.

Today the Master "Tear Maker" enchants the crowd with the narration of this epic event. Every night the crowd hears what happened in the battle of Karbala that very day in the 7th century.

For 10 nights the story is recited by master storytellers. I call them the “Tear Makers”. Trained in the fine art of reducing audiences to tears. Each member of the audience brings whatever suffering or loss that they have experienced that year to this safe place of collective mourning. Here they are transported to the 7th century battlefield and relive the pain.

A young boy is overwhelmed by the impassioned crowd

The crowd reach a crescendo in their mourning. An altered state of uncontrollable grief and hysteria.

The project follows a group of Iraqi migrants in London. Guided by a tear maker they commemorate these secret ceremonies behind closed doors, with uncontrollable wailing, chest beating and self-flagellation culminating on the 10th day with some of the mourners cutting their foreheads with swords. The project visually explores the power of storytelling and how a tale can resonate through the ages to dramatically affect the lives of ordinary people.

We follow some of them back to Iraq. Where they walk along the desert road to the scene of the battle in Karbala

A young man acting the part of on of Yazid's soldiers taking the hostages to Damascus

A young man acting the part of on of Yazid's soldiers taking the hostages to Damascus

A pilgrim rests in a mowkib after a long day of walking

Some pilgrims walk at night to avoid the desert heat during the day

Along the pilgrimage route a young boy from one of the poorer villages offers all that he has to the pilgrims.

The pilgrims arrive in Karbala

Some have walked their pilgrimage barefoot

The Tear Maker enchants the pilgrims with his lamentation

Inside the shrine of Imam Hussein a pilgrim cries to the wailing lament of the Tear Maker

Two young boys experience the pain of Karbala on their first Latum, this is their rite of passage. 

A woman places an offering sending her prayers to the heavens

“The progress of Islam does not depend on the use of The sword, but on the supreme sacrifice of Hussain.  I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory whilst being oppressed.” - Mahatma Gandhi​​​​​​​

The hand of Abbas which was cut off during the battle.

“No battle in the history of mankind has earned more sympathy and admiration as well as provided more lessons than the martyrdom of Husayn in the battle of Karbala.”- Antoine Bara (writer of Husayn in Christian Ideology)

The poor and destitute are fed and cared for by the community and the pilgrims

"It was possible for Hussein to save his life by submitting himself to the will of Yazid. But his responsibility as a reformer did not allow him to accept Yazid’s Caliphate.  He therefore prepared to embrace all sorts of discomfort and inconvenience in order to deliver Islam from the hands of the Omayyads. Under the blazing sun, on the parched land and against the stifling heat of Arabia, stood the immortal Hussein.” - Washington Irwing (American author, essayist, biographer & historian)

After a long day of serving pilgrims, a man sleeps in his makeshift street kitchen

Slide Show
Please feel free to browse the below slide show of selected images from the project below. These are a small selection of photographs which will be used within the film and the photo book. In order to receive special invitations to exhibitions, book launch events and film screenings please also use our contact link above or the subscription from below to provide your details for the mailing list.
A poetry competition
A poetry competition
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