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Iran To Organize 'Pilgrimage' Trips To War-Torn Syria

This file aerial view taken on August 3, 2019, shows a Syrian man inspecting the damages in the town of Khan Sheikhun in the southern countryside of the northwestern Idlib province.

The Islamic Republic Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization (HPO) has invited Iranian Shi'ites to register for traveling to Syria after years of civil war in the country.

Citing HPO, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked website, Fars news agency reported, "Security has returned to Syria, and Iranians may once again register for pilgrimage to the country."

The four to five-day pilgrimage that is set to resume in mid-December will cost 30-40 million rials per each pilgrim, which is more than the monthly salary of many working-class Iranians. But in U.S. dollars the cost would be around $300 per person; which would hardly cover the cost. It is not clear if the Iranian government will subsidize the trips.

Scheduled pilgrimage tours from Iran to Syria ceased immediately after the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.

Before that, thousands of Iranian Shiites made pilgrimage trips to Syria every year to visit the shrines of Zaynab (also spelled as Zeynab, or Zainab) and Ruqayya on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus. These Shi’ite saints are women from Prophet Mohammed’s family.

When Iran became involved in the Syrian civil war as an ally of Bashar Assad, it claimed to be sending forces there to protect the shrines of these saints, while thousands of fighters it was dispatching to fight were engaged in battles hundreds of miles from the shrines.

Millions of Iranians also visited Iraq as pilgrims in recent years, often with government subsidy.