Iranian Official Rejects Saudi Claims on Hajj Deal

Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi
Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi

Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi dismissed as a “pure lie” a recent claim by Saudi ambassadors to Islamic countries that a deal proposed to Iran on this year’s Hajj pilgrimage was not different from those offered to other Muslim states.

The text of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) proposed to Iran by Saudi Arabia was completely different and “discriminatory” compared to the MoUs proposed to other Muslim countries, Ohadi told Tasnim.

“We looked at the texts of Saudi Arabia’s MoUs with other countries completely and clause by clause,” he said, adding that none of the restrictions and prohibitions that Saudis had imposed on Iran in the proposed MoU was seen in the texts.

Ohadi further emphasized that Saudi authorities, in their recent talks with Iranian officials, politicized the issue of Hajj pilgrimage, which is a religious duty for Muslims, and by preparing a “discriminatory” MoU demonstrated that they are not willing to host Iranians for the upcoming Hajj.

On May 24, an Iranian delegation travelled to Saudi Arabia at the official invitation of new Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten to hold the last-ditch talks with the Arab kingdom’s officials on the dispatch of Iranian pilgrims for the annual rituals in September.

Tehran had insisted in the talks that visas for Iranian pilgrims should be issued in Iran and that the safety of travellers to Saudi Arabia must be ensured, given the disaster in Mina that killed many pilgrims in the previous Hajj pilgrimage. However, Riyadh refused to accept Iran’s conditions and said it would impose certain restrictions on Iran’s Hajj delegation and its pilgrims.

More than 460 Iranians were among the thousands of pilgrims who died on September 24, 2015, in a crush in Mina, near Mecca, during the Hajj pilgrimage.

The incident marked the worst ever tragedy during Hajj.