Iranian authorities are sending thousands of buses to the border with Iraq to help stranded pilgrims get back to their hometowns in Iran.
A week ago, nearly two million Iranians travelled to Iraq to participate in Arbaeen religious ceremonies in Iraq, but as they crossed the border back into Iran they found themselves stranded for lack of transportation back to dozens of cities and towns.
The Islamic Republic has strongly supported the Arbaeen ceremonies to expand from a low-key religious event into a large-scale gathering and march by Shi’as, which rivals the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia; Iran’s Moslem competitor in the region.
Photo tweeted by an Iranian pilgrim shows stranded passengers spending the night at the border.
Pilgrims had received subsidized foreign currency to travel to Iraq, but on their return trip things went wrong for unknown reasons.
Iranian media reported yesterday that some buses were demanding around $100, based on the official exchange rate, to take people from the border to Tehran. This is a huge sum for any ordinary Iranian and many are unable to afford it.
After initial denials of any problem with transportation, the general director of Iran’s international transport agency has announced that “Seven thousand buses have been dispatched” to border crossings to bring back hundreds of thousands of stranded pilgrims.