Tunisia: Pilgrim Deaths in Saudi Heatwave Lead to Minister’s Firing

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Political, Social, Tunisia


During the week of 17 June 2024, over 50 Tunisian pilgrims died on the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudia Arabia. The deaths were attributed to the heat as temperatures in Saudi Arabia reached 50 degrees Celsius. 

Throughout the week, estimates of the number of Tunisians who died in Saudi Arabia climbed from under five to nearly fifty. Numerous other countries with citizens participating in the Hajj reported deaths, with some estimates indicating that over 1,000 total pilgrims died. 

On 21 June 2024, President Kais Saied relieved the Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs, Ibrahim Chaibi, from his duties as the death toll continued to climb. A large number of the pilgrims who died were reportedly not officially registered as pilgrims, having traveled to Mecca on tourist visas in violation of the regulations governing travel for the Hajj. 

The Saudia Arabian government referred multiple travel agencies to public prosecutors for investigation, indicating that various travel services were facilitating the travel of pilgrims that lacked the correct visas to be in Mecca. 


With over 1,000 pilgrims dead on the Hajj, scrutiny is on Saudi Arabia’s management of the Islamic rituals amidst a heatwave and the various travel agencies and authorities responsible for helping pilgrims reach Mecca outside of formal channels. 

While some Muslims consider dying in Mecca while on the Hajj to be a special source of blessing, the news has raised concerns about how the industries that emerged around facilitating the travel of pilgrims may be exploiting and caring poorly for their clients.  


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