Iranian Pilgrims not allowed to go for Hajj this year

Iranian pilgrims are set to miss out on the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year amid a row with Saudi Arabia.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Pilgrims gather around the Kabah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Iran said on Sunday that its citizens would not be attending this year's annual Hajj pilgrimage in September after it failed to resolve its differences with Saudi Arabia on concerns over the security of its nationals.

Officials from the Saudi Hajj ministry and the Iranian Hajj Organisation held talks that ended on Friday over arrangements for the Iranian citizens in relation to the pilgrimage, but both sides failed to reach an agreement.

The Iranian Hajj authority blamed the Saudis for failing to meet the demands of Iran for ‘’the security and respect’’ of Iranian pilgrims, without giving further details.

"Saudi Arabia is opposing the absolute right of Iranians to go on the Hajj and is blocking the path leading to Allah," it added.

However, on Sunday, at a joint press briefing in Jeddah with Britain's visiting Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir criticised Iran's demands.

"Iran has demanded the right to organise... demonstrations and to have privileges... that would cause chaos during the Hajj. This is unacceptable," Jubeir said. 

He added that Riyadh signs a Hajj memorandum of understanding with more than 70 countries on an annual basis "to guarantee the security and safety of pilgrims", however "Iran refused to sign the memorandum".

Relations between Riyadh and Tehran were shaken in last year’s Hajj pilgrimage after a stampede killed at least 2,411 people, according to the Associated Press. With 464 deaths, Iran suffered the most casualties.

In Islam, it is required that all able-bodied Muslims perform the pilgrimage to Hajj at least once in their lifetime if they have the means to do so. Approximately 60,000 Iranians attended the pilgrimage last year.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni powerhouse in the Middle East, and Iran, its Shiite rival in the region, have long been butting heads.

Clashes between Saudi security forces and Iranian pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage in 1987 that left around 400 dead, including 275 Iranians, also led to the two countries freezing ties until 1991.

In January, Saudi Arabia cut off their diplomatic ties with Iran, over a row concerning the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.

The Saudis executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others after they were convicted of terror-related offences.

Riyadh and Tehran also support opposing sides in conflicts such as Yemen and Syria.

TRTWorld and agencies