14:58 GMT +319 February 2017
    Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat on the second day of the annual hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on September 23, 2015.

    Iran Bans Citizens from Making Pilgrimages to Mecca

    © AP Photo/ Mosa'ab Elshamy
    Middle East
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    In a further escalation of tensions with Saudi Arabia, Iran on Thursday banned Saudi imports and forbid Iranian citizens from making the annual trip to Mecca.

    All Muslims financially and physically capable of doing so are required at make a pilgrimage to Islam's holiest city at least once in a lifetime.

    The ban comes after nearly a week of tension week between the two rivals that started when Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, including prominent Iranian cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr. Saudi Arabia is a predominantly Sunni country, while Iran is the largest of the few predominantly Shiite countries in the world.

    In the subsequent days, the two countries severed diplomatic relations, Iranian protestors attacked and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and on Thursday Iran accused the Saudis of targeting its embassy in Yemen during an airstrike.

    The ban could impact the Saudi economy, which benefits from the 600,000 Iranians who contribute to kingdom’s $18 billion religious tourism industry each year.

    The last time Iran stopped its citizens from making the hajj was in 1987, after 400 mostly Iranian pilgrims were killed by Saudi riot police.

    Hajj, Nimr al-Nimr, Iran, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
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    • avatar
      Somewhat surprised the Hajj ban wasn't made after the latest massacre of pilgrims by Saudis.
    • avatar
      Ivan Zadorozhny
      Looks like a shooting war is in the making.
    • Mother Gorilla
      If you read up a bit on the death penalty, the only Western country that still practices it are some states in the US, in the rest of the world Saudi Arabia and Iran are two of four countries that still carried out executions since 2009. What an unholy trinity!
    • rzuber78
    • Capt'nSkippy !!!
      HAHAHA!! If the wars dont kill em, the stampedes will!!!
    • avatar
      that fine with me
    • qvasko 15
      Is dividing of Islam on TWO SEPARATE RELIGIONS on the horizon???
    • vvj3080
      At last there is a realization that there is nothing holy about the place. Most probably the religion was created by some elites to cause a great divide amongst humans for the sole purpose of perpetuating slavery. Haj only makes the Al Saud clan become richer, with the US and Israel sharing the loot..
    • avatar
      Good. Enough with Idol Worshipping .
      who in his right mind worship a worthless cube.
    • avatar
      The pilgrimage as I understand is a requirement from Allah for all abled muslim. Unless the leaders can usurp that authority the imams are suprisedly quiet.
    • avatar
      Firstly, Putin has done it to Turkey, now Iran is doing the same stuff to SA
    • avatar
      Maybe Saudis will take Iran to a court as well just like Erdogan is planning to "sue" Russia :)
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburnin reply toIvan Zadorozhny(Show commentHide comment)
      Ivan Zadorozhny, I think you are right. This is a very serious development. I can see the logic of the Iranian action though. Any of their citizens who travel there are certainly in danger of being massacred by the Saudis. They have already proven that they are capable of such.
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