A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Syrian Media Say Saudis Block Syrians from Hajj

Syrian state media is reporting that Saudi Arabia will not allow Syrians to make the hajj this year, because the routine approval was not forthcoming:
"The Syrian High Committee of hajj has announced the halt to the pilgrimage this year, due to a failure to reach consensus with the Saudi authorities," the official SANA news agency reported.
The Syrian committee "took all necessary steps for the 2012 hajj season, but the relevant ministry in Saudi Arabia did not sign the accord as it does every year," SANA said.
The tensions over the conflict in Syria are presumably to blame, but the move is highly unusual. Saudi Arabia has long imposed national quotas on hajj pilgrims based on the originating country's Muslim population, and has sometimes sharply reduced quotas due to political issues. In 1987, after years of tension, clashes broke out with Iranian pilgrims and some 400 people died; Iran and Saudi Arabia broke relations and the Saudis sharply reduced Iran's hajj quota by more than half, but did not eliminate it. Iran boycotted the hajj for three years as a protest, but that decision came from the Iranian side, not the Saudis.

These reports are already provoking some comment on the Internet; the hajj has almost never been affected by political disputes, aside from the Iranian case in the 1980s.

The hajj will take place in late October this year.

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