Pilgrims Depart Liberated Northern Syria as Hajj Season Begins

Credit: (Bab al-Hawa/Social Media)

 Pilgrims from liberated northern Syria have begun their journey to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj, marking the start of this year’s pilgrimage season. This year is significant as it is the first time in 12 years that the Assad regime has been granted oversight and control over Syrian pilgrims, following the Syrian revolution in 2011.

Saudi Arabia recently decided to transfer the management of Syria’s Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage process to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, removing the authority from the Syrian revolutionaries. According to the Middle East Monitor, Syria’s Minister of Awqaf (religious endowments), Muhammed Abdul Sattar al-Sayed, met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan, in Jeddah. They agreed to coordinate the pilgrimage activities with the Assad regime.

The two ministries have planned to establish joint preparatory committees to discuss and plan logistical procedures. The decision follows an agreement signed by the Assad regime’s Hajj director, Hassan Nasrallah, and an official from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj, as reported by the outlet Al-Modon, following normalization efforts and rapprochement between the Kingdom and the regime last year.

This shift in control reflects a broader trend of normalization between Riyadh and Damascus, signaling a revival of ties that were severed over a decade ago due to the Assad regime’s crackdown on peaceful protests. Saudi Arabia handed the responsibility for Syrian pilgrims to the revolutionaries’ Supreme Hajj Committee in May 2013. However, last year Saudi decided to end the 12 years of custodianship amid fears that it could endanger chances for Syrians outside of Assad-controlled areas to take part in the pilgrimage.

The first pilgrims, carrying 270 people, departed from Damascus to Jeddah on May 28, marking the first resumption of direct flights between Saudi Arabia and Syria after more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Hajj Committee, formed by the “Syrian Coalition” against Assad, announced it would manage the pilgrimage for Syrians residing in northern Syria and Turkey independently, ensuring they can perform the Hajj with ease and convenience.

The committee has been responsible for organizing Hajj groups from Syria and neighboring countries since 2013. Saudi Arabia’s reestablishment of relations with Syria includes the recent appointment of Faisal al-Mujfel as the Saudi ambassador in Damascus, the first since diplomatic ties were severed in 2012.


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