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Iran Has Banned Its Citizens from Making Pilgrimages to Mecca

The ban is the latest sign that relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are rapidly deteriorating.
January 7, 2016, 6:30pm
Photo of the Kaaba and a sea of people making their hajj via WikiCommons

Authorities in Iran have announced plans to bar Iranian citizens from traveling to the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina, CNN reports. The country is also freezing all Saudi imports.

Tensions between the two Middle Eastern countries have been rising recently, after Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran following an attack on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran. This latest move shows just how much their relationship has deteriorated, and a pilgrimage ban is more than just symbolic: Reportedly, around 600,000 Iranians make annual pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina every year, and Saudi Arabia makes billions from religious tourism.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been longstanding rivals in the region, and Iran has banned its citizens from traveling to Mecca before, most recently in 1987 after a clash between protesters and Saudi security forces in the city left hundreds dead. (That ban lasted for three years.)

Iran has also accused Saudi Arabia of purposely targeting the Iranian embassy in Yemen during a recent airstrike, though according to the BBC the building may not have been hit.