Pilgrims in Iraq obliged to return

Pilgrims in Iraq obliged to return

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Pilgrims in Iraq obliged to return

Turkish pilgrims, waiting at the border gates of Iraq, hold protest. DHA photo

Travel agencies organizing pilgrimage visits should work professionally and not let their customers travel without visas, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Oct. 19. His statement came a day after Iraq refused to allow more than 120 Turkish buses, apparently loaded with pilgrims traveling to Mecca, across to Saudi Arabia since the passengers did not have the required visas from Baghdad.

“Our pilgrims who have departed may have not known [about the visas] themselves, but those who sent them on this journey should have known that they needed to acquire visas from the countries they pass through and that those visas should be complete,” Davutoğlu told reporters Oct. 19.

Not acceptable attitude
“On this matter, it is frankly not an acceptable attitude to send thousands of our citizens on a journey like this without having contacted either the Directorate of Religious Affairs or our ministry.” The Foreign Ministry was informed of the situation only after the pilgrims had passed into Iraq, Davutoğlu said. “Because they do not have visas, their return to Turkey has become a procedural necessity. We will anyway do everything we can to ensure our citizens continue their holy journeys.”

Meanwhile, another group of pilgrims were stuck at the border gate of Silopi near the Iraqi border. They are spending night in mosques or empty residents and are waiting for assistance from authorities in order to enter Iraq via the Habur Border Gate. Pilgrims were attempting to use Habur for the first time in 22 years.