Hajj: Saudi to allow Iranian pilgrims traveling from other countries
Saudi Arabia and Iran have yet to agree on parameters governing the pilgrimage, including gatherings of Shia pilgrims during Hajj rituals. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Saudi Arabia has agreed to grant visas to Iranian Hajj pilgrims as long as they are coming from countries other than Iran, Saudi Minister for Hajj Affairs Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten said Monday.
According to official Saudi news agency SPA, Benten said visa applications for Iranian pilgrims coming into the kingdom from the EU, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Africa would be approved.
"Saudi Arabia has agreed to grant visas to Iranian pilgrims arriving from other countries [other than Iran]," Benten said.
He went on to assert that Hajj pilgrims "of all nationalities and ethnicities from all parts of the world" were welcome.
In April, Shia Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia failed to agree on the parameters governing the pilgrimage, which all Muslims are obliged to perform at least once in their lives.
The dispute escalated after Tehran demanded that Iranian pilgrims be allowed to perform certain practices -- forbidden by the Saudi authorities -- during the Hajj.
The Saudi authorities, for their part, say such practices, which include gatherings of Iranian Shia worshipers during the Hajj ritual, "hinder the movement of other pilgrims".
The practices, however, were deemed political and religious obligations by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Saudi Arabia severed official ties with Iran early this year after its diplomatic missions in the Iranian cities of Tehran and Mashhad were attacked by protesters following the execution of a prominent Shia cleric by the Saudi authorities.
By Afra Aksoy and Sibel Ugurlu