Hajj preparations going on without trouble: Iranian official

Tasnim – An Iranian official dismissed reports raising public concern about participation of Iranian pilgrims in this year’s Hajj, saying required preparations are being made and the first group of pilgrims will fly to Saudi Arabia on July 31.

Most of the required preparations have been made and Iranian pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia from July 31, Seyed Ali Qazi-Askar, the representative of Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Hajj and pilgrimage affairs, announced on Monday.

On the speculation that the Saudi government would not allow a delegation of Iranian Foreign Ministry representatives entry into the kingdom for Hajj preparations, Qazi-Askar said the problem of visa for those 10 officials will be resolved within the next few days following consultations with Saudi Arabia’s minister of Hajj and Umra.

Earlier this month, Qazi-Askar said Saudi Arabia has permitted 10 individuals from Iran’s Foreign Ministry to travel to the cities of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina as representatives for consular affairs.

As many as 86,500 Iranian pilgrims will travel to the kingdom for Hajj this year.

Iran announced in mid-March that applicants can go on Hajj pilgrimage this year following negotiations with Saudi officials after a hiatus in the wake of a diplomatic row with the kingdom.

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.