Iran announced a ban on imports from Saudi Arabia and Saudi groups called for boycotts of Iranian products.
Iran also reaffirmed a ban on Umrah pilgrimages to holy Makkah. Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran on Sunday over the storming of its embassy in Tehran, intensifying a diplomatic crisis set in motion on Saturday after Saudi’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric. More after the cut….
The cleric, Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, was an opponent of the ruling dynasty and demanded greater rights for Saudi Arabia’s marginalized Shiite minority. The last time Iran stopped its citizens from going on pilgrimage to Makkah was in 1987, after 400 mostly Iranian pilgrims were killed by Saudi riot police.
A ban on Umrah pilgrimages with Iranians traveling to the Saudi holy city of Mecca was also reaffirmed by the cabinet, the statement added, saying the restriction was in place “until further notice.” The holy trips were suspended by Tehran in April last year, in response to an alleged sexual assault on two Iranian men by Saudi airport guards. Some flights between the two countries have also been suspended.
Iranians compose one of the biggest groups of year-round pilgrims to Mecca, with officials estimating that around 600,000 Iranians travel to Saudi Arabia every year on holy pilgrimages. Saudi Arabia is believed to be earning billions of dollars in revenue from religious tourism in the Middle East.
On Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced Riyadh’s plans to cut off all flights between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as plans to ban its citizens from traveling to the Islamic Republic.