TEHRAN (Press Shia) – The representative of Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Hajj and pilgrimage affairs made assurances that Iranians planned to go on pilgrimage to the holy cities in Saudi Arabia later this year should not worry about their security in the kingdom.
“Due to the severance of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, there are public concerns about the security of the Hajj,” Seyed Ali Qazi-Askar said in a speech in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad on Friday.
“However, (in talks) with the Saudis, we have raised the issue that they should separate the Hajj from political issues, and they have accepted this in practice,” he added.
“There is no (security) problem facing our pilgrims with the grace of God and, of course, in this regard, the experience of the last two years has proved this,” the official went on to say.
During a visit to Saudi Arabia in December 2018, Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Alireza Rashidian held meetings with officials from the kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah about the 2019 Hajj season.
The two sides signed an agreement at the conclusion of the meetings, aimed at making better arrangements for Iranian pilgrims and preventing the problems they faced in previous years.
The agreement stipulates that 86,500 Iranian pilgrims would go on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in the coming Hajj season.
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 2, 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.