Iranians begin hajj amid tensions with Saudi

Iranians have begun travelling to Saudi Arabia for the hajj months after Tehran suspended a minor pilgrimage over the alleged abuse of two pilgrims by Saudi authorities.

State TV says in a report on its website on Sunday that 700 pilgrims left for Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities. Some 64 000 Iranians have permits to attend the pilgrimage this year. The hajj is required of all Muslims who can afford it and who are physically able.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are regional rivals who back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

In April, Iran suspended the minor pilgrimage, known as umrah, after two Iranians were allegedly abused by Saudi security forces at an airport. It’s not clear whether Iran will resume the minor pilgrimage.

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