Iran wants Iraq to abolish mandatory PCR tests for its Arbaeen pilgrims
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iran has asked Iraq to reduce the cost for its Shiite pilgrims traveling to Iraq for the religious observance of Arbaeen by letting them bypass mandatory PCR tests at Iraqi airports, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday.
Hossein Zolfaqari, the Iranian official who is coordinating this year’s pilgrimage, argued that since the pilgrims traveling to Iraq will already need to present a negative coronavirus test before their trip, Baghdad should let them bypass mandatory PCR tests at Iraqi airports. By doing so, each pilgrim would save $40.
Last year, Iraq banned foreign pilgrims traveling to the country for Arbaeen in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, Iraq has permitted entry to 30,000 Iranian pilgrims provided they travel by air. Aside from Iranian pilgrims, Baghdad is only letting another 10,000 foreigners attend.
Before the pilgrims can board their planes from Iran, they must produce a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before they travel. Tasnim also cited officials who said that those allowed to travel must have gotten both doses of their COVID vaccine and not have any other illnesses.
Zolfaqari also said that Iran is ready to facilitate the return of its pilgrims overland to reduce the cost of a return flight if Baghdad approves.
Shia Muslims observe Arabeen each year by commemorating the martyrdom of Shiite Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the Battle of Karbala in 680.
Millions of Shia pilgrims travel to Karbala during this time, making Arbaeen one of the largest pilgrimage gatherings in the world.
This year’s Arbaeen is on September 27.