Document Type : Research Paper
1 Assistant Professor of American Studies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
2 Assistant Professor of West Asian & African Studies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
Given the history of conflict between Iran-Iraq (1980-1988), the present paper investigates whether interpersonal contact between Iranians and Iraqis, through religious tourism, has assisted in changing the perception of the Iranians toward the Iraqis. To this aim, the researcher chooses the Arbaeen Pilgrimage—the world’s largest annual gathering in Karbala—and the interaction of the Iranians with Iraqis as its case study. To observe the cultural contact of foot pilgrims to Karbala, the researcher traveled to Iraq in 2019 for five days to participate in a 78 km. walk from Najaf to Karbala. The paper uses semi-structured face-to-face interview as research method. To account for diverse demographic characteristics of pilgrims, potential participants were approached randomly. Overall, 24 interviews with 14 female and 10 male Iranian pilgrims were conducted. Participants comprised Iranian people aged 14 to 57. Each interview lasted from 20-35 minutes. The paper uses integrated threat theory and Contact Theory to analyze the data. It will be argued that under Gordon Allport four optimal conditions-- i.e., a.) equal status; b.) common goals; c.) intergroup cooperation, and d.) support of social and institutional authorities-- intergroup contact between Iranians and Iraqis has helped in reducing prejudice, while diminishing old hostilities.