Syrian opposition’s Supreme Hajj Committee: No changes in the hajj file
The Supreme Hajj Committee, affiliated with the Syrian opposition’s National Coalition, denied any changes regarding the Syrian hajj file for the upcoming 2024 season.
In a post on its Facebook page today, Monday, February 5, the committee stated, “There is no truth to the news that talks about any party signing a hajj arrangement agreement with Saudi Arabia up to this moment.”
The committee added that it is communicating with the concerned Saudi authorities regarding the file.
The committee’s statement comes in response to statements made by the Syrian ambassador in Riyadh, Ayman Soussan, to the local pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan today.
Soussan said that Syrian pilgrims would set off to perform the hajj pilgrimage from Syria under the management of the Syrian Ministry of Religious Endowments, after 12 years.
He also announced that the Minister of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) in the Syrian regime’s government, Abdul Sattar al-Sayed, would visit Saudi Arabia next March to sign an agreement on this matter.
Since 2013, the Supreme Hajj Committee, affiliated with the Syrian National Coalition, has been managing the hajj file in coordination with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj, with diplomatic relations having been suspended since then until last year between Saudi Arabia and the Syrian regime.
On January 8, the Syrian opposition’s Supreme Hajj Committee issued a statement in which it confirmed that it is conducting intensive communications with Saudi Arabia to keep the Syrian hajj file in its hands, which it has been managing for ten years.
On January 10, Syrian accounts on social media circulated news that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj had signed an agreement with the Ministry of Awqaf in the Syrian regime’s government to hand over the management of the hajj file.
No official news has been issued about signing the hajj protocol from the Saudi side with officials from the Syrian Ministry of Awqaf, or any decision from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj to hand over the hajj file to Damascus.
Usually, the Saudi Hajj Minister, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, oversees the signing of the hajj protocol with the Minister of Awqaf of the signing country.
The Syrian regime aims to reclaim the hajj file from the Syrian opposition, and the Ministry of Tourism in its government had previously organized a workshop to define the steps for reclaiming the religious tourism activity towards Saudi Arabia.
The workshop, held on August 28, 2023, included the Ministries of Awqaf and Health, and the Central Bank of Syria.
After the resumption of relations between Damascus and Riyadh, and the meeting of the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, with the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, in Jeddah in May 2023, during the Arab Summit meeting, there were many speculations about the return of the hajj file to the regime’s government.
The Supreme Hajj Committee affiliated with the Syrian National Coalition fully took over the hajj file in May 2013, after the Saudi Ministry of Hajj refused, in 2012, to sign the usual agreement with the Awqaf Ministry of the regime, a few months after Riyadh closed its embassy in Damascus and withdrew its diplomats in March 2012, coinciding with the spread of demonstrations throughout Syria and the violations committed by the regime.
Despite repeated condemnation and objections from the Ministry of Awqaf every year, following the assignment of the file to the Syrian opposition, or the restrictions placed on pilgrims coming from areas under the regime’s control, Saudi Arabia’s decision has not changed.
After the end of last year’s hajj season, the Supreme Hajj Committee held a meeting, on July 26, 2023, chaired by the head of the committee, Abdul Rahman Mustafa, which tackled the necessity of completing the evaluations and questionnaires related to the concluded hajj season and the importance of starting early preparations for the next season.
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