Iran officially announced on Thursday that it won\’t be sending pilgrims to the hajj this year, blaming Saudi Arabia for the move and claiming the kingdom has failed to provide adequate security for the pilgrims.
The hajj has become a contentious issue as tensions between the two Mideast powers escalated after last year\’s disaster at the hajj killed at least 2,426 people, according to an AP count. Iran has said the disaster killed 464 of its pilgrims.
Iran has since demanded additional security guarantees for pilgrims but a second round of talks in Saudi Arabia this week failed to resolve the issue.
Saeed Ohadi, head of Iran\’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, said Thursday that "Saudi Arabia knows it will pay a heavy price for depriving pilgrims" from Iran of the chance to perform the hajj, considered a duty for every able-bodied Muslim.
He also said Riyadh sought to restrict the number of makeshift clinics Iran wanted to set up for its pilgrims and the amount of medicines it wanted to supply them with. In addition, last month the kingdom said it would not allow Iranian pilgrims to perform a Shiite ritual during the hajj.
After the hajj disaster, tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia escalated further after Riyadh executed a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric convicted of a string of charges, including sowing dissent in the majority Sunni kingdom. This sparked widespread protests in Shiite-led Iran, which views itself as the protector of Shiites around the world. Iranian protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic posts and Riyadh responded by cutting diplomatic relations with Tehran.
The two countries also support opposing sides in Syria\’s civil war and the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the Arab world\’s poorest country.