Muslim pilgrims during the annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia July 31, 2020

Iranians Umrah Pilgrimage To Saudi Arabia Officially Cancelled

Friday, 02/16/2024

Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization announced the official cancellation of the Umrah pilgrimage, with refunds for over 30,000 Iranians already registered being processed.

The Umrah, an Islamic pilgrimage to the holiest Muslim city Mecca in Saudi Arabia, can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Haj pilgrimage, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. The first group of Iranian pilgrims was scheduled to embark on Umrah in early January after about seven years of diplomatic estrangement between Tehran and Riyadh.

The cancellation of the Umrah pilgrimage was attributed to a "technical disagreement" regarding Iranian flight permits for entry into Saudi Arabia.

Hesam Ghorbanali, the spokesperson for Iran’s flag carrier airline Iran Air (Homa), said at the time that due to the lack of the required permit, the aircraft of the Islamic Republic was unable to travel to Saudi Arabia, claiming that the problem would be resolved within a few days.

Now after about a month and a half, Haj and Pilgrimage Organization announced that all registration fees will be refunded.

Since the suspension of Umrah in 2015 and the emergence of disagreements between Tehran and Riyadh, approximately six million Iranians have been awaiting the resumption of Umrah. The minister of culture had previously promised that before the summer of 2024, around 400,000 people would undertake the Umrah pilgrimage.

The relations between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia have been strained over the years, with heightened tensions due to Iran's support for Shia paramilitary groups, notably in Yemen. 

However, after a seven-year diplomatic hiatus, Tehran and Riyadh reached an agreement in February 2023 of the previous year to resume diplomatic relations. The agreement, mediated by China paved the way for a subsequent trip by Ebrahim Raisi, the President of the Islamic Republic, to Saudi Arabia.

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