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Published on : Friday, May 13, 2016
After the crush and stampede last September in the area of Mina during the hajj, which killed at least 2,426 people, Iran blamed Saudi for its “incompetence” during the hajj, which all able-bodied Muslims are required to perform once in their life. Iran said it had lost 464 of its pilgrims in the disaster last year.
Acoording to Iran’s minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Ali Jannati, negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia were aimed at trying to “resolve the issue” of security during the hajj, but failed to make any headway. Jannati also added in the comments that the sabotage is coming from the Saudis who did not accept the proposals concerning the issue of visas or security and transport of the Iranian pilgrims.
Execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia on January 2 created high tensions between the two countries and is one of the primary reasons that affected this decision. The kingdom has called the cleric a dangerous terrorist who stirred dissent in the country’s predominantly Shiite east, something denied by his family, who say al-Nimr never advocated violence nor picked up a weapon.
Al-Nimr’s execution sparked widespread protests in Iran and demonstrations outside of Saudi diplomatic posts in Tehran and Mashhad turned violent, however, and saw protesters storm the buildings.
Since Saudi diplomatic posts remain closed in Iran, kingdom officials had told the Islamic Republic its citizens would need to travel to embassies in other countries to apply for visas for the hajj, Jannati said. He described that as another sticking point in the failed negotiations. Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, also blamed Saudi Arabia for the failed talks. Ansari continued that if no agreement is reached on these issues, it would be Saudi Arabia who will be responsible for shutting the way to sending Iranian pilgrims.
Last year’s hajj, which drew 2 million pilgrims, also saw a crane collapse in Mecca kill 111 worshippers and is described as the deadliest disaster in the history of the annual pilgrimage.
Iran called for an independent body to take over planning and administering the five-day hajj pilgrimage, but the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family likely would never give up its role in administering the holy sites. However, this is not the first time Iran has boycotted the hajj. in 1988 and 1989, Iran boycotted the hajj while Saudi officials severed diplomatic ties over the violence and Iranian attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf.