Iran confirms that more than 520 Hajj pilgrims have been arrested and deported from Saudi Arabia this week
An unidentified member of the initial group of 150 detained on October 31 told Iran’s Fars news agency that they were detained at Medina airport on the pretext that they had fake visas. “They are telling us that there is a problem with our visas, whereas our visas are genuine,” he told the agency. “They were issued by the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad and some of the officers themselves accept the fact that the visas are genuine.”
He added that the pilgrims were told that “the majority of Iranians are Jewish or have Jewish ancestors and there is no reason for them to go on hajj pilgrimage.” […]
The traveling caravan of Iranian pilgrims, which include several well-known Koran reciters and no political figures, insists that their deportation marks only the most recent example of offensive behavior shown toward Iranian pilgrims. And outside observers back their claims. Adel Darwish, a British journalist and political commentator specializing in Middle Eastern politics, says the incident could be taken as a product of past and current animosity between the two countries.
Darwish says the practice of deporting Iranian pilgrims from the kingdom is a practice that began after the early 1980s — when the Iranian government began using the hajj as a political platform to export the Islamic revolution to the Persian Gulf states. “In the last few years, the Iranians have become more sophisticated in using intelligence services and their agents disguised as pilgrims in order to spread the revolution and radical ideas, knowing that people are coming from Africa, from Asia, and from faraway places in Europe.,” Darwish says. “And that would be a good gathering for them to spread the message.”