Iran’s culture minister says Saudi Arabia has provided “written assurances” that it will meet all of Tehran’s conditions with regard to ensuring security for Iranian pilgrims in the upcoming Hajj ceremony.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the cabinet meeting on Thursday, Reza Salehi Amiri underlined Tehran’s resolve to maintain the “dignity” of Iranian Hajj pilgrims, the Iran newspaper reported.
“For this aim, we have taken all the possible paths. The Saudi Arabian side accepted the conditions required by Iran for [ensuring] the security of Hajj pilgrims and given [assurances] in writing,” he added.
The culture minister said that Iran has currently dispatched medical teams and different logistics to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, noting that the first group of Iranian pilgrims will be sent to Saudi Arabia on July 31.
“We normally monitor the situation and if there is any likelihood for an incident, we will follow it up at the senior levels of the [Iranian] establishment (top officials),” Salehi Amiri pointed out.
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 this year after protests in front of its diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad against the execution by Riyadh of eminent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.