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Saudi Exclusion of Iranians From Hajj Unacceptable
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Saudi Exclusion of Iranians From Hajj Unacceptable

A hajj official said Saudi Arabia has deliberately barred Iranians from making the hajj pilgrimage and refused to discuss ways of preventing the recurrence of a deadly crush during last year’s hajj rituals in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.

It was “unacceptable” to deprive the faithful Iranian people of the opportunity to perform the hajj rituals, especially given the waiting list of 15-20 years, Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, said in an interview with AFP on Friday.

The Saudis “believe they are the owners; that Mecca and Medina are their properties,” he said. “No, they are the properties of Islam.”

The tragic Mina incident took place when two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads during the symbolic ceremony of the stoning of Satan in Jamarat.

Thousands of people, including at least 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives in the crush on September 24, 2015. Iran had the highest confirmed death toll among foreign nationalities in the Mina stampede. Thousands of pilgrims were killed in the incident.

Iran was compelled to cancel the participation of tens of thousands of its pilgrims in this year’s pilgrimage, which started on Saturday, due to Saudi Arabia’s refusal to give assurances about the safety of pilgrims.

 Irrationality

“How are you going to invite 1.5 million pilgrims and not even allow yourself to think about the security measures?” Ohadi asked.

“Seven thousand people were martyred, were killed, from 39 countries. Why Saudi Arabia was not logical to invite delegates of these 39 countries who had the casualties during the hajj of last year to sit down and think? What measures we can take to avoid any source of problems like this from being repeated again?”

The head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization noted that during this year’s negotiations with Saudi officials, they fell back on verses of the holy Qur’an saying that anyone who enters Saudi Arabia has “full security”.

He noted that the last straw in the hajj talks was a call by Saudis that Iranian pilgrims “cannot have any contact with any Muslim from any other country”.

“This is while the Qur’anic verses have emphasized the importance of mingling with Muslims from around the world during the pilgrimage,” he said.

Ohadi said his Saudi counterpart, Mohammed Salih Bentin, expressed concern that Shia Muslims from Iran would seek to “convert” other Muslims from other countries.

“I said, minister, this is really funny. We have eight million Sunni people in Iran, the young generation attending universities,” the Iranian official said.

“If you are not ready to accept the Iranians, please very frankly and transparently say that you are not going to allow Iranians. Why? Because you are afraid that they will expose what happened last year.”

Ohadi said on August 27 the Islamic Republic would spare no effort to restore the rights of the victims of the deadly crush in Mina.

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