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Sunday, 27 September 2015 11:11

Hajj mishaps: Deliberate act or Saudi mismanagement

Hajj mishaps: Deliberate act or Saudi mismanagement

The tragic incident in Mina this Thursday which claimed the life of over a thousand Hajj pilgrims because of the lawless behaviour of a senior Saudi prince has raised the question about the legitimacy of the regime in Riyadh to exercise control over the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, which are sacred to the world’s 2 billion Muslims. It should not be forgotten that the Aal-e Saud occupied the Hejaz through war, bloodshed and massacre of tens of thousands of Muslims in 1925, and since then have been breaking every law in the holy cities of Islam. Please stay with us for a special analysis in this regard.


The incident occurred on Thursday in Mina, near Mecca, after huge pilgrim processions proceeding towards the ritualistic stoning of symbolic Satan, when the stampede occurred. It has been reported that the convoy of Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Aal-e Saud, the son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Aal-e Saud, had arrived at the site, forcing the pilgrims to change their original route. Several Arab papers, including the Arabic language Lebanese al-Diyar newspaper, disclosed on Thursday evening as:

“The large convoy of Mohammad bin Salman Aal-e Saud, the King's son and deputy crown prince, that was escorted by over 350 security forces, including 200 army men and 150 policemen, sped up the road to go through the pilgrims that were moving towards the site of the 'Stoning the Devil' ritual, causing panic among pilgrims who were on the move from the opposite direction and caused the stampede.”

According to Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization the tragic incident claimed the lives of more than 1,300 people, including 131 Iranians. Saudi officials, however, put the death toll at 717. Sa’eed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, released the Iranian death toll on Thursday night, adding that the number of the fatalities could rise. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses have said that injured pilgrims are not receiving adequate medical care in Saudi hospitals and medical centers.

An Iranian survivor, meanwhile, told Press TV that Saudi officials had been slow in responding to the emergency situation. “It took rescue workers two hours or more to arrive at the scene,” he said, adding, “The rescue workers, who were just a few, started collecting dead bodies instead of taking care of the injured.”

The latest stampede and a number of other recent deadly incidents have reignited the debate about Riyadh’s competence to manage the annual Islamic pilgrimage. On September 11, a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque of Mecca, perilously near the holy Ka’ba, killing over 100 people. Hundreds of people were also injured. According to the figures released by Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, 11 Iranian pilgrims were among the deceased and 32 of the injured were also Iranian nationals.

Separately, a fire at a 15-story hotel in Mecca forced some 1,500 people to leave the place on Monday. A fire at another hotel in the city had likewise forced mass evacuations last Thursday.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called on Saudi Arabia to shoulder its responsibility over the recent deadly incident in Mina, declaring three days of national mourning following the deaths of several hundred Hajj pilgrims, including at least 131 Iranian nationals. He said:

“Offering condolences to the bereaved [families of killed pilgrims], I declare three days of national mourning in the country.

The Saudi government is obligated to shoulder its heavy responsibility in this bitter incident and meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness. Mismanagement and improper measures that were behind this tragedy should not be overlooked.”

The disaster created a “great grief” in the Islamic world, the Leader said, condoling with the survivors and mourners throughout the Muslim community and extending all possible assistance to the pilgrims of other countries.

Here we take a look at major Hajj-related accidents over the past years, because of the mismanagement of the Saudi regime:

Every year, millions of Muslims converge on Saudi Arabia's holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the Hajj pilgrimage, representing a major security and logistical challenge for the organizers.

In 2015, that is the ongoing Hajj rituals: At least 1300 people were killed and more than a 1000 injured in a crush of pilgrims Thursday in Mina, on the outskirts of Mecca. On Sept. 11, a crane collapses in a storm and crashes onto the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 111 people are killed and injuring nearly 400.

In 2006: More than 360 pilgrims were killed in a stampede in Mina, near Mecca, where pilgrims carry out the symbolic stoning of the devil. A day before the Hajj began, the collapse of an eight-story building used as a hostel near the Grand Mosque killed 73.

In 2004: at Mina at least 244 pilgrims were killed and hundreds of others injured on the Hajj's final day.

In 2001: A stampede at Mina on the final day of the Hajj killed 35 people.

In 1998: About 180 people were trampled to death in panic after several of them fall from an overpass during the stoning ritual at Mina.

In 1997: At least 340 pilgrims were killed in a wind-whipped fire at a tent city in Mina. More than 1,500 others were injured.

In 1994: About 270 people were killed in a stampede during the Mina ritual.

In 1990: A stampede killed 1,426 people at an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to the holy sites in Mecca in one of the worst Hajj-related tragedies.

In 1987: In Mecca, which is supposed to be the most inviolable place, Saudi forces blatantly attacked a peaceful rally of Iranian and other Hajj pilgrims, declaring their disavowal of disbelievers, in line with the commandments of God in the holy Qur’an, resulting in the martyrdom of over 400, mostly Iranian men and women.

The growing number of incidents and deaths during the Hajj rituals, including three this year, has caused increasing criticisms from people all over the world. Officials and elites of various Muslim states, who believe that Riyadh is incapable of running the Hajj ceremony, have stressed that the Haramain ash-Sharifain, that is the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, do not belong to the Saudis, and should be managed by a body representing all Muslim states, such as the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Ali al-Ahmed, the director of the Washington-based Institute for Persian Gulf Affairs, says that the Hajj incidents should push Muslim governments to take a stance against the Saudi regime’s continuous failure to protect the lives of pilgrims. In a recent interview he said: Over the past twenty years since 1985, nearly 10,000 Muslim pilgrims have lost their life due to mismanagement by the Saudi authorities. Muslim nations such as Iran, Turkey and Indonesia are expected to call for having a share in management of the biggest and the most important Islamic ritual to avoid such incidents in the future. The Saudis want to have a monopoly on every single aspect of the Hajj pilgrimage; thus, they prevent any involvement by other countries, al-Ahmed maintains. Mecca is now the most dangerous holy city in the world maybe in the history in terms of people who have died in these stampedes.  

Sheikh Salman Mohammad, the advisor of Egypt's ministry of endowment said: “Many mistakes have been made during the Hajj ceremony in recent decades and the bloody Friday incident was not the first case and will not be the last either; therefore, unless a revolution doesn’t take place in the administration and management of the Hajj ceremony in Saudi Arabia, we will witness such incidents in future too.”

Also Ashraf Fahmi, a professor at Egypt's al-Azhar University, said that Saudi Arabia should admit its mistakes in handling the Hajj ceremony and take serious measures to correct the way it administers the ceremony. It is time the Saudi regime should allow an international body or a joint committee of Muslim countries to oversee the management of annual Hajj pilgrimage.


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