For the first time in 30 years no citizen of the Islamic Republic will participate in the most important Muslim pilgrimage. Iran says insurmountable "obstacles" have been placed in the way, Riyadh wants to "block the path that leads to Allah." Saudis says the conditions posed by Tehran are "unacceptable."
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Riyadh and Tehran have not reached an agreement for Iranian Hajj pilgrims. The protracted dispute is linked to the issuing of visas for the citizens of the Islamic Republic and "direct" flights to Saudi Arabia. Consequently, this year - and for the first time in 30 years - no Iranian citizen can participate in the great pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Iranian Minister for Culture, Ali Jannati, claims that Saudi Arabia has placed insurmountable "obstacles". Riyadh rejects the accusations and instead speaks of "unacceptable" conditions advanced by the Iranian delegation.
Jannati says that "after two rounds of negotiations without results" due to "obstacles" placed in the way by the Saudis, Iranian pilgrims "cannot participate in Hajj" in September. According to the Iranian body in charge of the organization of the pilgrimage, Riyadh wants to "block the path that leads to Allah." Last year 60 thousand Iranians took part in the event.
Instead the Saudi government claims it offered "different solutions" to Iran during the last round of talks, which lasted two days and ended on May 27. The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the conditions set by Tehran for participation of Iranian pilgrims are "unacceptable."
Adel al-Jubeir remarked that every year Riyadh signs a memorandum of understanding with more than 70 countries in the world to regulate the Hajj, to guarantee "the safety and protection of the pilgrims". However, Iran "does not want to sign the Memorandum" and sought "privileges [...] that would have been a source of chaos".
Iran (Shiite) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni) are on opposite sides in many of the most important issues that agitate the Middle Eastern chessboard, from the Syrian conflict to the war in Yemen. Moreover, relations between the two greatest powers in the Muslim world have been at an historic low since September 2015, following the tragic accident during the last major pilgrimage to Mecca.
A stampede in Mina, near Mecca, caused hundreds of casualties, 2070 dead according to statistics reported by Reuters. Iran had immediately accused the Saudi authorities of "mismanagement" and "incompetence" to the point of suggesting that the incident was premeditated.
The Hajj (pilgrimage) is considered one of the five pillars of Islam and every good Muslim should perform it at least once in his life time. Saudi Arabia has often politically exploited permission to come to Mecca. For example, for years Syrians were forbidden to travel to the Muslim holy cities.