Iraq allows visa-free entry for Iranians during pilgrimage period
Officials from Iran and Iraq have agreed to process visa-free entry of millions of Iranians who travel to Iraq during an annual pilgrimage period.
The agreement was finalized on Monday during a meeting in Tehran between deputy interior ministers from the two countries.
Iranian media reports on the issue suggested that pilgrims from Iran who travel to Iraq in mass numbers in days before and after Arba’een, which will fall in late October this year, would be allowed to enter Iraq without obtaining visas.
The reports said, however, that the entry would be limited to a single border crossing which will be determined in later discussions between officials from the two neighboring countries.
Iranian pilgrims will be allowed to enter the Iraqi territory during the Arba’een pilgrimage period having a passport and a letter of insurance covering their period of stay in Iraq.
Around five million Iranians normally visit Iraq during the period, which coincides with the 40th day of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia imam whose shrine is in the holy city of Karbala, in central Iraq.
Since waiving visa requirements for Iraqi nationals in April, Iran has been expecting Iraq to reciprocate in kind as the number of Iranian nationals visiting the Arab country, around nine million, far exceeds the number of Iraqis, around 100,000, who travel to Iran each year.
However, Iranian government has argued that easing entry restrictions for Iranians attending the massive procession of Arba’een would benefit Iraq both financially and culturally.
In a related decision last year, Iraq allowed its embassy in Tehran to issue free-of-charge visas for all Iranian pilgrims visiting the country.