Iran has barred its Muslim pilgrims from making the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
The Hajj is a holy, annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a mandatory religious duty for every Muslims. This year, however, thousands of Muslims from Iran will not be able to fulfill their religious obligation. Iran has barred its Muslim pilgrims from traveling to Saudi Arabia to take part in the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage that is set to take place this September. The reason, according to the Iranian government, Saudi Arabia's failure to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims.
Iran has definite grounds for demanding the safety of their pilgrim citizens from Saudi Arabia, owing to the fact of 464 Iranians getting killed during the stampede that happened during last year's Hajj pilgrimage. Also, in 1987, more than 400 pilgrims, most of them Iranian Shi’ite pilgrims, were killed in the clashes with the security forces of Saudi Arabia, during an anti-U.S. and anti-Israel protest in Mecca.
Since last year's Hajj, tension between the revolutionary Shi’ite republic of Iran and the conservative Sunni Muslim monarchy of Saudi Arabia has peaked. Iran blamed Saudi Arabia for the 2015 Hajj incident; they said it was Saudi's incompetence and mismanagement that caused the death toll to rise during the stampede. Relations between Tehran and Riyadh worsened at the beginning of 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy over the Saudi execution of a Shi'ite cleric. In fact, Riyadh broke off its diplomatic ties with Tehran over the incident.
In a statement given to the state media, Iran's Haj and Pilgrimage Organization said that due to the ongoing sabotage by the Saudi government, the Iranian pilgrims have been denied the privilege to attend the 2016 Hajj. They assert that the responsibility for this rests with the government of Saudi Arabia. The statement also said that Saudi Arabia refused to issue visas for Iranians, thus making it impossible to use Iran Air flights to transfer the passengers.
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Saudi Arabia countered by saying that the country does not prevent anyone from performing their religious duty. Not only did Iran refuse to sign the memorandum but also demanded rights to hold demonstrations and other privileges, which was not acceptable to Saudi, since it would create chaos during the Hajj. This was stated by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, during a news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond.
More than two million Muslims from around the world pilgrimage to Mecca to take part in the Hajj. Saudi Arabia oversees the pilgrimage.