1st batch of Iranian pilgrims to leave Saudi Arabia tomorrow: Official

Tasnim – The first group of Iranian pilgrims will arrive in Tehran tomorrow, returning from the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization said.

The first flight carrying Iranian pilgrims back home from Saudi Arabia will leave Jeddah airport in the early hours of Tuesday, Hamid Mohammadi said on Monday.

He added that some of the Iranian pilgrims would be flown back to the country through Medina’s airport in the coming days in order to facilitate and expedite their return.

As many as 86,500 Iranian pilgrims traveled to the kingdom this year for the religious event.

Hajj is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and the largest gathering of Muslim people in the world every year. The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar.

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.