ERBIL — The Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization revealed in a statement on Monday that more than 80,000 Iranian pilgrims had visited Iraq to attend the Arbaeen ceremonies.
This came during a meeting between Alireza Rashidian, head of the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, and the Iranian Consul General in Karbala, as reported by IRNA.
"The Iraqi government was late in announcing the number of visitors who are entitled to enter the country. Visas were granted late, which caused a lack of time and delay in implementing the procedures, including follow-up, coordination, and planning related to the registration and dispatch of Arbaeen pilgrims," Rashidian said.
"The peak of visitors' arrival to Iraq was during the past week, and now pilgrims will begin to return. So far, there has been no particular problem with visitors entering Iraq, except for some cases at the Shalamcheh and Mahran border crossings."
Earlier this month, Hossein Zulfaghari, the deputy of the Iranian interior minister, pointed out that only those Iranian citizens who had been vaccinated and that do not suffer from any serious illnesses would be allowed to visit the Shia religious sites in Iraq
Moreover, based on a deal reached between the two countries, as part of the protective measures against COVID-19, no pilgrims had been said to be permitted to travel to Iraq through the border crossings, they had been required to pay the visit by plane.
According to the report by IRNA, Rashidian further advised the Iranian pilgrims to "return to the country by air," noting: "We are working to facilitate the appropriate conditions for the pilgrims' return through the border crossings, and we hope for the necessary coordination and cooperation in this regard to speed up the return process."
Arbaeen is marked 40 days after the Shia commemoration of Ashura, which was attended by millions of pilgrims last months while ignoring the COVID-19 restrictions.