An Iranian official says the Saudi government has started issuing visa for Iranian Hajj pilgrims as of July 13.
Nasrollah Farahmand, the deputy head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, declared the first series of visas for Iranian Hajj pilgrims were issued electronically on Thursday.
“Although the negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the dispatch of Iranians to this year’s Hajj pilgrimage started late, all arrangements have been made for ensuring the dignity of Iranian pilgrims,” he added, according to a Farsi report by ISNA.
“Good measures have been taken to provide good services for pilgrims in the fields of food, lodging, and transportation,” he noted.
Farahmand stressed that good hotels in Mecca and Medina have been booked for Iranian pilgrims even though the number of pilgrims has increased by 22,000 compared with 2015.
In January, Iran’s Ministry of Culture responded to an official invitation by Saudi Arabia to attend meetings to discuss the resumption of the Hajj pilgrimage for Iranians and conveyed Iran’s ideas and concerns to the Saudi side.
In September 2015, a deadly human crush occurred during Hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca.
Days into the incident, 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.
Unofficial sources put the death toll at almost 7,000 people. Iran said about 465 of its nationals lost their lives in the incident.
Earlier that same month, a massive construction crane had collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims, including 11 Iranians, and injuring over 200 others, including 32 nationals from Iran.
Serious questions were raised about the competence of Saudi authorities to manage the Hajj rituals in the wake of the incidents, and, facing Saudi intransigence to cooperate and refusal to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims, officials in the Islamic Republic subsequently decided to halt pilgrimages over security concerns.
Saudi Arabia also unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran in January 2016 after protests in front of its diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad against the execution by Riyadh of eminent Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.