Leader of Oppressed People and Muslim Ummah Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei blasted the western states who claim to be supporting human rights for keeping mum about the death over 7,000 Muslims during the Hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia on September 24, and called for continued serious probe into the case.
“The lying and hypocritical bodies which claim to be advocates of human rights as well as the western governments which sometimes launch international ballyhoos over the killing of one person have kept silent on this issue in favor of their friend (Saudi Arabia),” Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing officials of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization in Tehran on Monday.
“If those who claim to be supporting human rights were honest, they would ask for accountability, compensation, guarantee for non-repetition and punishment of culprits behind the catastrophe,” he added.
Ayatollah Khamenei underlined the necessity for continued probe into the cause of the Mina stampede incident which killed over 7,477 Muslims (according to Saudi health ministry), and said, “After the incident, the Muslim world had to protest with a united voice but unfortunately no voice was heard except the voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran and even the governments whose pilgrims had passed away, didn’t show noteworthy protest over the catastrophe.”
The stampede occurred during the ritual known as “stoning the devil” in the tent city of Mina, about two miles from Mecca.
At least 465 Iranians lost their lives in the incident, while hundreds of others were wounded.
On September 30, Ayatollah Khamenei warned Saudi Arabia that the slightest disrespect for the Iranian pilgrims who are in Mecca for the Hajj ceremony would be reciprocated with Tehran’s harsh and crushing response.
Ayatollah Khamenei called for setting up a fact-finding committee of Iranian and other Islamic countries’ authorities to probe the death of thousands of Hajj pilgrims in Mina and missing of hundreds of them, and said, “The Saudi government is not complying with its responsibilities to transfer the bodies of those who have been killed (in Mina stampede) and the Islamic Republic of Iran has so far, respected the brotherhood in the Muslim world by exercising self-restraint and Islamic politeness but they should know that the slightest disrespect for tens of thousands of Iranian Hajj pilgrims in Mecca and Medina and any lack of responsibility to transfer the bodies will result in Iran’s crushing and violent reaction.”
Ayatollah Khamenei underlined that Iran doesn’t want to have an early judgment of the cause of the incident “but we believe that the Saudi government hasn’t acted upon its responsibilities with regard to the injured pilgrims in the Mina incident and has left them desperate and thirsty”.
He said Iran has so far practiced self-restraint over the death of its citizens in Saudi Arabia, “but they should know that Iran’s hand is above many others and it enjoys more possibilities too and if it wants to show reaction to annoying and insidious actors, they will not have a good situation and they won’t be able to gain victory on any scene of rivalry.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t practice cruelty but it also doesn’t accept anyone’s oppression and cruelty; therefore, it doesn’t trample on the rights of any human beings and nations, either Muslim or non-Muslim, but if anyone wants to trample Iran and its nation’s rights, he/she will receive a strong response; and thanks God, there is a capability for such a confrontation and the Iranian nation is powerful and resistant,” Ayatollah Khamenei underscored.
Meantime, Iranian lawmakers said that the Parliament is planning to investigate the stampede incident.
“The parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission will hold a special session to discuss the stampede in Mecca,” member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Mohammad Reza Mohseni Sani told reporters.
Mohseni Sani blamed the Saudi officials for the disorder which resulted in the death of thousands of the Hajj pilgrims, and urged the Iranian Judiciary and Foreign Ministry to pursue the case.
Sources revealed that the convoy of Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud caused panic among millions of pilgrims and started the stampede.
“The large convoy of Mohammad bin Salman Al 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 millions of pilgrims who were on the move from the opposite direction and caused the stampede,” several Arab papers, including the Arabic language al-Dyar newspaper, disclosed the day Mina incident happened.
“That’s why the ruler of Mecca has distanced himself from the case, stressing that the issue should be studied and decided by the King,” it added.
No other source has yet confirmed the report, but observers said the revelation explains why two of the roads to the ‘Stoning the Devil’ site has been closed.
Eye witnesses said earlier that the Saudi police and security forces had closed two of the few roads to the stone column that were to be used by millions of pilgrims to do the ‘Stoning the Devil’ ritual.
Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj organization, accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors and mismanagement.
He said for “unknown reasons” the paths had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place.
“This caused this tragic incident,” he told the Iranian state television.
Eyewitness accounts said that even after incident the Saudi security and military forces closed all paths leading to the scene and the bodies of pilgrims have piled up on each other.
Others blamed Riyadh for mismanagement of Hajj ceremony, adding that many of the wounded pilgrims are dying of the hot weather conditions, which reached 46 degrees centigrade on September 24, while police and the army have closed access roads to the site of the incident making the relief and rescue operations and trafficking of ambulances very difficult.
Pilgrims present on the scene are also complaining about insufficient number of medical teams and centers. Reports said hospitals are overwhelmed by the large number of the wounded.
Twelve hours after the incident, the dead body of hundreds of those killed in the stampede were still piled up out in the streets.
Head of the Iranian pilgrims Seyed Ali Qazi Askar in an interview with the state TV after the incident complained that the Saudi officials do not allow other countries’ relief and rescue squads to help.
“They have even prevented us from aiding our own pilgrims,” he complained with surprise.
The Mina crush was the third incident in the Hajj rituals this year.
In the first incident, a crane crash over the Grand Mosque of Mecca killed over 100 and injured hundreds more two weeks ago.
Ten days before the start of Hajj this year, a construction crane crashed through the roof of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 107 pilgrims. At least 238 others suffered injuries when a powerful storm toppled the crane.
A week later, a fire incident at a Mecca hotel claimed the lives of several other pilgrims.
A Saudi analyst said on the condition of anonymity for the fear of his life that the two stampede and crane crash incidents were the result of rivalries between a part of the Saudi police and security service and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to display that the Saudi king and crown prince are incompetent and unable to handle the Hajj ceremony.
Rivalries are tough and deep among different royal families who are all descendant of the Al-Saud and see themselves entitled to the thrown. The present king is the first from Sodayri family of Al-Saudi to have ascended to power.