Hawzah News Agency (Tehran, Iran) - Seyed Abbas Salehi said the current conditions of the relations between Tehran and Riyadh do not allow for Iranians’ participation in Umrah pilgrimage.
Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to Ḥajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.
As for Hajj pilgrimage, Salehi said the Saudi side remained committed to its undertakings regarding Iranian pilgrims in the 2017 Hajj.
He said a delegation from Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization recently travelled to Saudi Arabia for talks on the 2018 Hajj.
Back in November, head of the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Hamid Mohammadi, too, said that currently, conditions are not ripe for the country to resume dispatching nationals to Saudi Arabia for performing the Umrah (minor Hajj) pilgrimage.
“The resumption of the Umrah pilgrimage requires special arrangements and mechanisms and it will take place if Saudi Arabia fulfills them,” he said at the time.
In 2016, more than 1.8 million pilgrims attended Hajj, but Iranians stayed at home after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly crush of people during the 2015 pilgrimage.
On September 24, 2015, thousands of people lost their lives in the deadly crush after Saudi authorities blocked a road in Mina during a ritual, forcing large crowds of pilgrims to collide.
The crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the pilgrimage. According to an Associated Press count based on official statements from the 36 countries that lost citizens in the disaster, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in the incident.
Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.