Dushanbe, April 14, Interfax - From now on, Tajik Muslims will be able to perform a pilgrimage to the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina only after they turn 35, the Tajik government's committee for religious affairs said in a press release on Tuesday.
"Only people 35 years old and above will have a right to perform such a pilgrimage," it said.
"The goal of our decision is to allow elderly people to observe the annual pilgrimage and make their long-time dream come true," the committee said.
Every year Tajikistan's committee for religious affairs compiles lists of citizens willing to observe the annual hajj to the sacred Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina, located in Saudi Arabia, which annually issues the hajj quotas for foreign and domestic pilgrims.
In previous years, up to 8,000 citizens of Tajikistan, which has a population of around eight million people, completed the hajj. However, Saudi Arabia, seeking to counter the hajj stampede, decided to reduce these quotas this year.
"This year, only 6,300 quotas have been issued by Saudi Arabia to Tajikistan," the committee said.
Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon earlier called on citizens of his country, where the annual hajj has become very popular in recent years, to focus on helping the poor instead of "getting into debt or paying the last money to make such a trip."