Saudis settle a score with Iran by refusal to okay Iranians for Hajj

Tehran, May 24, IRNA – The Saudis are settling a score with the Islamic Republic of Iran by refusal to give clearance to Iranian pilgrims to take part in this year’s Hajj rituals.

At the same time, the Saudis reject any doubt that they have politicized Hajj pilgrimage.

Since long ago and after disgraceful behavior against two Iranian youth in Jeddah airport and martyrdom of Hajj pilgrims in Mina humanitarian tragedy led Iran and Saudi to strained relations more than ever.

Putting to death the prominent Shia religious leader Nimr Baqir al-Nimr and street protests afterwards led the Saudi government to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran, the relations became more tense.

Now, Saudi officials try to widen the scope of the political conflicts to cover Hajj, procrastinating over the routine procedures to clear Iranian pilgrims to go to Hajj pilgrimage.

Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati criticized Saudi conduct of Iranian pilgrims in Hajj and said this year’s Hajj will be possible in case of due cooperation by the Saudi government, but, unfortunately, over the past few months, Saudi government continued procrastination.
Angry protestors stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashad to decry violation of human rights of the Saudi Shia community with putting to death the religious leader.

The move was officially condemned by Iranian officials and judicial ruling was issued to prosecute the suspects. The Saudis were availed with the pretext to make hasty decision to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran.

Now Saudis try to abuse the issues and politicize Hajj, making procrastination on the way, thus blocking presence of Iranian pilgrims in Hajj.

Over the past three months, abundant efforts have been made on part of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to settle all issues and problems pertinent to Hajj this year and ease political tension and differences irrespective of Hajj. But when it comes to dispatch of a delegation to Saudi Arabia from Iran for talks on Hajj, it took two months due to Saudis’ procrastination to issue visas. So, a great deal of time, which was to be spent on looking into Hajj issues, wasted due to Saudi negligence.

Saudis took depressing and resentful moves. After so many procrastination, the head of Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Office Saeed Ohadi was fingerprinted and his belongings were checked despite possessing diplomatic passport.

The funny side of the issue is that Saudi government tries to pretend that the Islamic Republic of Iran politicizes Hajj and drag differences to the domain of religion. Saudi Hajj Ministry on May 12 announced in a statement that Iran is accountable before God for its decisions on Hajj. Saudi Arabia welcomes presence of Hajj pilgrims from four corners of the universe. Of course, such a statement is in line with agenda of the Saudi government.
Saudi rulers claim they will not prevent presence of Iranian pilgrims in Hajj rituals but in practice, their procrastination has gone to the extent that not enough time has been left for necessary coordination and registration of pilgrims and issuance of visas for them. Even now we have approached the red line, let’s say the timing of this year’s Hajj — September.

Furthermore, the preconditions Saudi officials lay for presence of Iranian Hajj pilgrims have made performance of the divine rituals more complicated. Saudi Arabia has announced that regarding severance of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh, visa will be issued in a third country. Also, no Iranian plane will be allowed to land there and pilgrims will be transferred through Saudi planes. In the meantime, under vain pretexts such as Iranians’ impeding move of other Hajj pilgrims, Saudi officials will not allow the Iranians to recite Komeil praying and hold the ceremony of disavowal of the pagans.

Despite all the procrastinations and disrespects, Iranian officials have exercised self-restraint. Since the beginning, Iranian officials have had a main request: Guaranteeing security of Iranian pilgrims. That’s a demand ignored by Saudis as Mina humanitarian tragedy occurred due to mismanagement and incompetency of Saudi officials in charge of holding Hajj pilgrimage.

Iranian Hajj officials believe that Swiss embassy in Tehran is caretaker of Saudi interest section in Iran. They say visa should be issued in Iranian territory and through Swiss embassy.

Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization in a statement, issued on May 15, asked Saudi government to prepare suitable ground within shortest possible time for dispatch of Hajj pilgrims and not to prevent performing the rituals. The statement urged Saudi Ministry of Hajj to raise explicit stance of Saudi Foreign Ministry and Aviation Organization on the following issues:

1. Issuanc of visas for Iranian Hajj pilgrims

2. Transfer of Iranian Hajj pilgrims through Iranian aviation fleet and Saudi airliners as in the previous years

In the end, Iranian officials have spared no effort for presence of Iranian pilgrims in Hajj this year but Saudi officials act in a way that they do not have the least willingness and interest in accepting Iranian pilgrims to Hajj.

Saudi rulers intend to use the Hajj pilgrimage as a pressure tool against Iran and as an instrument to make up for their failures in political domain.

Perhaps they try to make up for their failures in Syria, Iraq and Yemen through having full control over Hajj and holding it in a selective way, with an intention to put the Islamic Republic of Iran under pressure. But what is evident is that Iranians want only dignified Hajj.