Riyadh, March 19: Good News for Iranians! Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to Muslims from Iran to travel to Mecca and celebrate this year's hajj, the annual religious journey that is one of the five pillars of Islam. However, the announcement delighted all the pilgrims of Iran and this decision of Saudi will bring sweetness in both the enemy countries relationship.
The official Saudi Press Agency said in a statement Friday, referring to the Islamic calendar that the ministry of hajj and the Iranian organization have completed all the necessary measures to ensure Iranian pilgrims perform hajj 1438 according to the procedures followed by all Muslim countries.
A meeting on 23rd Feb of this year in Jeddah between Mohammed Saleh bin Tahir Bentin, Saudi minister of Haj and Umrah, and Hamid Mohammadi, head of Iran’s delegation when the decision was taken about the participation of Iranian Muslims in Hajj. The ministry has also confirmed that Saudi Arabia, its leaders and people welcome all pilgrims, Umrah performers, and visitors, regardless of nationality or sect, from across the Islamic world.
Earlier, Iran decided to stop sending pilgrims to Hajj over security concerns after two deadly incidents claimed the lives of more than 470 Iranian pilgrims during the 2015 Hajj rituals. Days after the deadly human crush, which occurred in September 2015, Saudi Arabia published a death toll of 770 but refused to update it despite gradually surging fatality figures from individual countries whose nationals had been among the victims of the crush. Iran said about 4,700 people, including over 465 of its nationals, lost their lives in the incident.
Therefore, Iranian Muslims skipped the journey to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the place where the Quran was first revealed, for the first time in three decades last year. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged Muslims last year to "punish the government of Saudi Arabia in order to have a real Hajj." He cited a stampede in 2015 that killed at least 2,000 pilgrims, including as many as 464 Iranians.
Interestingly, Riyadh and Tehran don't enjoy diplomatic relations, and tensions between the Middle Eastern powers have swelled amid regional conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. Sunnis rule Saudi Arabia, while Shia Muslims are the majority in Iran. But the latest development between both the countries will lead to deeper bilateral relationships.