Tasnim – Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Hamid Mohammadi said currently, conditions are not ripe for the country to resume dispatching nationals to Saudi Arabia’s holy cities 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,” Mohammadi said on Monday.
Although it can be expected that after the resumption of Iranians’ Hajj pilgrimage dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be held on similar cases, the two sides’ political relations have not been normalized yet, he said.
“The resumption of the Umrah pilgrimage in the current situation is not possible due to the lack of proper political grounds, arrangements, and mechanisms,” he added.
The Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims. Unlike the Hajj, which is also known as the “major Hajj pilgrimage”, it can be undertaken at any time of the year.
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.