The head of Iran’s Hajj and Umrah Organization, Hamid Reza Mohammadi, announced the suspension of “shrine visitor trips” to Syria until further notice due to the turmoil caused by the conflict in Palestine.
Speaking to the Iranian news agency ISNA on Saturday, Mohammadi stated that his country had temporarily halted pilgrimages from Iran to Syria. This decision was prompted by concerns over the volatile situation in Gaza and the escalating conflicts in the region.
Hamas initiated a military operation named al-Aqsa Flood, which involved air and ground attacks, as well as rocket strikes targeting settlements near the Gaza Strip. This led to a significant and continuous bombardment of the Gaza Strip, resulting in casualties among civilians and the looming threat of an Israeli ground invasion.
According to Mohammadi, Iranian pilgrims travelling to Damascus were previously accommodated on a weekly flight departing from Tehran. Each trip typically included two convoys, with 80 individuals in each convoy. The cost of this week-long pilgrimage with the Hajj and Umrah convoys was approximately 14 million Iranian tomans (equivalent to about $331), Mohammadi noted.
It is worth mentioning that this suspension of pilgrim flights to Syria coincides with efforts by the Hajj and Umrah organization to increase the number of flights between the two countries.
Annually, the Syrian government attracts visitors from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon who come to visit Shiite sites and shrines within the country, engaging in what is referred to as “religious tourism.”
Ruba Sasila, the Director of Tourism Marketing and Media at the Ministry of Tourism, predicted on May 28 that the number of tourists for the current year would reach approximately one million, highlighting a 30% increase in the number of tourists during the first three months of the year compared to previous years.
In a report on a Syrian-Iranian meeting, the local newspaper al-Watan quoted the Syrian-Iranian Joint Economic Committee from last April, stating that both sides had agreed to establish eight specialized committees, one of which focuses on tourism matters, including religious tourism.
According to the official Syrian news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a memorandum of understanding for a long-term strategic comprehensive cooperation plan between Syria and Iran. This plan encompassed cooperation agreements in various fields, including agriculture, transport, oil, free zones, telecommunications, and more.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.