Iranians Fume over Hajj Incident

26 September 2015 | 22:31 Code : 1952338 Middle East General category
Iran has suffered the highest number of victims during the Mina stampede, and newspapers are furious with Saudi mishandling of the incident.
Iranians Fume over Hajj Incident

The catastrophic stampede in Mina during the high season of pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina has injected a fresh dose of anger against the Saudis inside Iran while the two countries are engaged in regional struggles across the Middle East. Among nearly 800 victims acknowledged so far, Iran holds the highest share with the number hovering around 130 according to officials.


Friday prayers leaders across Iran were harsh-toned against the Saudi rulers (1, 2, 3, 4). In Ahvaz, the sermonizer called the Saudi state "evil" and "unqualified" to host the hajj pilgrims, reminding the congregation that "the Al-Saud regime still has an open case for attacking the people of Yemen and for its aggressions in Syria."


Even the usually soft-spoken ayatollah, Emami Kashani, was tough on the Saudi officials, slamming them for their 'lies'. He called for international courts' intervention, and also for the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) to take control of the hajj ceremony, since "the Saudi government … is busy with nurturing Daesh [ISIS] and slaughtering in Yemen." Demonstrators gathered after the prayers, chanting "Death to Al Saud" and calling for the disfranchisement of the Saudi royal household from the administration of the hajj.


Unverified news flew around randomly. Rumors in Iranian social media told of a decree by the Saudi sultan to 'behead' 28 officials responsible for the catastrophe. Two ministers were dismissed, Minister of Hajj and Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs. Neither was confirmed. A few hours later, a short video started circulating, showing a royal motorcade passing through the venue of the incident. It was this motorcade, belonging to Mohammad bin Salam, the adventurous son of the Saudi King and the mastermind behind Riyadh's war in Yemen, that had caused the stampede, the rumors persisted. It turned out that the video belonged to Mecca Governor Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud's entourage during the hajj ceremony a few years earlier.


In their Saturday edition, Iranian newspapers were unanimous in condemning the Saudi royal household. "No catastrophe, but Al-Saud's crime" wrote the Reformist daily Arman. Aftab-e Yazd and E'temaad, two other major Reformist newspapers printed in full black background. "Catastrophe!" read Aftab-e Yazd, while E'temaad referred to Mina as the 'altar' where the pilgrims were sacrificed. Principlist media were less friendly with the Saudi royal family. Javan, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, published a picture of piled-up bodies on its front page, describing the massive deaths as "The Catastrophe of the Princes" of the Al Saud household. Kayhan blamed Mohammad bin Salman, runnning the headline "King Salman's son's desire to become the king resulted in havoc", although the body of the report did not develop this claim. "O Revenger!" read Vatan-e Emrooz' top headline, calling for Divine retribution against the Saudis.


Ayatollah Khamenei's message, released on Friday, read: "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". Three days of national mourning were announced by Iran's Supreme Leader, although for Iranians, it will take much longer to forget the catastrophe.

tags: hajj