Iranian officials hold Saudi officials responsible for Hajj tragedy

September 26, 2015 - 0:0

TEHRAN – A number of senior Iranian officials have censured Saudi Arabia for the mishandling the Hajj pilgrimage that has so far led to the death of some 2,000 pilgrims from different countries, including 131 Iranian nationals.

The criticism against Saudi Arabia came after a stampede in Mecca on Thursday killed hundreds of Hajj pilgrims and injured many more. It was the worst such incident in a quarter century.

Director of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Sa’eed Ohadi said on Friday that the organizers of this year’s Hajj are not properly trained and lack essential skills to run the big event.

Ohadi also said the death toll from stampede has so far has reached 2000.

Politicians, clerics and experts have said the deadly stampede is a sign of the incompetence of Saudi organizers of the annual Hajj ritual.

The stampede occurred as the pilgrims carried out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls.

AP reporter Aya Batrawy, speaking on Thursday’s All Things Considered, said that “from the survivors that I spoke to, they say that for them, it’s pretty clear that the Saudi authorities didn’t manage the crowds properly.”

NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reported that “there's been sharp criticism of the Saudi organizing authorities and a backlash against reported comments on Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV. The network reportedly quotes the head of the central Hajj committee blaming the stampede on the lack of discipline by some African pilgrims.”

-------- Rouhani orders task force to address Mina disaster

On Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the formation of a special taskforce to address the incident outside the holy city of Mecca, Press TV reported.

In his order, Rouhani asked First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri to set up the taskforce as soon as possible and constantly inform him and the nation about its findings, the president’s official website reported early on Friday.

Among its objectives, the taskforce would have to send rescue teams, if need be, and dispatch aircraft to Saudi Arabia to assist the pilgrims and the wounded and also transfer the bodies of the Iranian pilgrims back to the country.

Rouhani also asked Riyadh to take responsibility for the disaster and fulfill its legal and Islamic obligations in this regard.

Arabic-language daily al-Diyar has said the presence of the convoy of Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in the middle of the population prompted a change in the direction of the movement of the pilgrims and the subsequent crush. It said Salman had sought to attend the huge gathering of pilgrims in Mina.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also said on Thursday that the fatal crush started after Saudi security forces blocked two streets while the pilgrims were walking towards the final ritual of the Hajj.

---------- ‘Saudi Arabia must answer to Iran, other states’

Amir-Abdollahian said Saudi Arabia should be held accountable over the death of Hajj pilgrims.

“Saudi Arabia should be answerable to the Islamic Republic [of Iran] and other countries that could not perform a calm Hajj [ritual],” Press TV quoted Amir-Abdollahian as saying.

“We can by no means remain indifferent towards Saudi Arabia’s irresponsible behavior,” said Amir-Abdollahian. “The tactlessness on the part of relevant Saudi authorities to provide security for the pilgrims cannot be overlooked.”

Amir-Abdollahian held the Saudi authorities responsible for the tragedy and said they should promptly act to manage the crisis.

---------- Rafsanjani says Riyadh should be answerable to the Islamic world

Holding the Saudi government accountable for the deadly crush, Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Friday “the officials in the Saudi government in charge of [maintaining] order in this huge ritual are responsible for the incident and should be answerable to the Islamic world.”

Rafsanjani also extended his condolences to Muslims and the bereaved families of the victims over the deadly tragedy, which he said has brought grief upon the Islamic world.

-------- Parliament speaker: Saudis should present convincing explanations over incident

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani in a statement on Friday said Islamic nations expect the Saudi government to provide “convincing explanations” about the fatal stampede in Mina.

In his message, Larijani offered his deep condolences to the families of the victims and the Islamic community, and called on Muslims to follow up on the main reasons behind the tragic event in order to prevent its repetition in the future.

He also called on Muslim countries and relevant Islamic organizations, including the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to carefully look into the reasons behind the failure and negligence of the Saudi government in managing the annual event and take necessary measures to organize the divine festival in a proper way.

Muslim nations expect the Saudi government to fulfill its obligations and “act upon its commitment” regarding the disastrous event and prosecute the perpetrators.

“The Saudi government should provide the Islamic Ummah [community] and the world with convincing explanations,” Larijani stressed.

-------- Saudis must admit responsibility for mismanagement, Judiciary chief says

Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sedeq Amoli Larijani also called on the Saudi officials to bear the responsibility for the mismanagement of the Hajj congregation.

In his message on Friday, Amoli Larijani expressed his condolences to the beveared families, the Iranian nation, and the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution over the tragic event.

------------ Zarif intensifies diplomatic contacts after mina stampede

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged Saudi officials to do utmost efforts to speed up the process of identification of the Iranian nationals killed in the stampede, Tasnim reported.

Zarif said he had discussed the latest conditions of Iranians injured during the huge stampede in phone calls with Saudi officials on Thursday, urging the Saudi government to expedite the process of identification of the Iranian victims and the treatment of injured.

He added that a special taskforce has been formed by Iran’s Foreign Ministry to address the bitter incident.

------- Security chief calls on relevant bodies to investigate the stampede

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council also issued a message on Friday, urging relevant Iranian bodies to take proper measures in the face of the Mina catastrophe.

Shamkhani also held Saudi security and executive officials accountable for the deadly stampede in Mina.

---------- Foreign Ministry to dispatch special delegation to S. Arabia

A special Foreign Ministry delegation led by Hassan Qashqavi, deputy foreign minister for consular affairs, and the managers of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, was to leave for Saudi Arabia as soon as possible to oversee the situation of Iranian pilgrims, Qashqavi said on Friday.

Qashqavi told IRNA that the delegation will be inclusive of the Foreign Ministry regional and consular officials, the director of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRSC) and a number of media representatives.

The deputy foreign minister for consular affairs said that the major responsibility of the Foreign Ministry’s special delegation will be clarifying the fate of the missing Iranian pilgrims.

“We will also pursue the proper progress of returning the bodies of the demised pilgrims back to their motherland, survey the real causes for the sad incidence, visit the injured victims in hospitals and healthcare centers and offer any possible assistance we can,” said Qashqavi.

------- Saudi envoy summoned to Iranian Foreign Ministry

Earlier on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s charge d’affaires to Tehran was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to hear the Islamic Republic’s protest over the horrible incident.

The Saudi diplomat expressed regret over the fatal incident and offered condolences to the Iranian government and the families of the victims.

--------- First VP blames Saudis for the tragic incident

Iran’s First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri laid the blame on the Saudi government for the tragic incident, saying “the consequences of any negligence” falls upon the Saudi government.

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli in a letter to his Saudi counterpart Mohammad bin Nayef called for a thorough investigation into the tragic stampede incident.

“As Iran’s interior minister, I ask you to order the concerned Saudi Hajj officials to do their utmost cooperation with the Iranian relief workers stationed in Mecca and Mena to sooner organize the affairs of the Iranian pilgrims,” Rahmani Fazli said in his letter, as quoted by IRNA.

--------- Senior MP says Saudi reports on tragedy untrustworthy

The Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee chairman has called for an immediate dispatch of an Iranian truth-finding committee to investigate the hajj incidents, calling the Saudi reports “unreliable”.

“We do not trust them [Saudis] as they do not let officials of Islamic countries to visit medical centers in charge of caring the pilgrims victimized in Mina,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi said.

He said it is Iran’s indispensable right to know what has happened to its citizens in Saudi Arabia via sending security agents, medical staff, and diplomats.

The senior MP also said the Saudi government must shoulder the responsibility for the incident.

---------- Iranians rally to condemn Saudi Arabia

Also on Friday, thousands of Iranian protesters took to the streets across the country on Friday to strongly condemn the Saudi government over the deaths of hundreds of Hajj pilgrims.

Iranian people poured into the streets after the Friday prayers chanting slogans against the Saudi authorities. The protesters stressed that the Saudis’ mismanagement was the main cause of the Mina stampede.

They also lambasted the ongoing Saudi aggression against Yemen, and called for a swift end to the regime’s crimes against the impoverished Yemeni people.