Iranians will not participate in this year's holy pilgrimage to Mecca amid mounting tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran's ministry of culture announced Sunday, citing lack of cooperation on the part of Saudi officials.
“Given the treatment and rhetoric by Saudi officials in two rounds of talks with the Iranian delegation and the obstacles created, in effect hajj won’t be possible,” Iran’s Culture Minister Ali Jannati reportedly said Sunday. “Unfortunately, Iranian pilgrims won’t be able to make it to Mecca this year.”
Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization also blamed “Saudi sabotage” for the cancelation, adding, “Despite all the Islamic Republic’s efforts, the Saudis ignored the absolute right of the Iranians to perform the hajj rituals,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Saudi Arabia, however, blamed Iran for this decision. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Sunday the kingdom had agreed to most of Iran’s demands, the Journal reported. He accused Tehran of asking for special treatment beyond what is usually provided to other Muslim countries.
The diplomatic ties between the two nations were severed in January following a mob attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran. The mob was protesting the Saudi execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
Iranian officials said that about 460 of the more than 700 pilgrims who lost their lives in a stampede during last year’s hajj were Iranian, Bloomberg reported.
Iran last boycotted the pilgrimage for three years between 1988 and 1990, after clashes between Shiite pilgrims and Saudi security forces led to the deaths of more than 400 Iranians during the 1987 hajj.
Islam requires devout Muslims to perform the hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime if they are able.
Iran is dominated by Shias while Saudi Arabia is ruled by Sunnis. This difference has lead to numerous standoffs between the two regional rivals.