This year the Iranian pilgrims were not allowed to travel to Mecca to perform their Hajj rites. As part of efforts to fan tensions and step up hostilities against Iran, Al Saud regime has used Hajj as an instrument. It politicized the Muslim ceremony to put strains on the Islamic Republic in a bid to realize its agenda. The tensions affected Iranian pilgrims’ travel to Saudi Arabia for the Islamic ceremony.
This is not the end of the story, however. Despite the fact that the evidences suggested that this year’s Hajj pilgrimage was not as warm and spirited as last years, the Saudis didn’t decline to harshly treat the pilgrims. They reportedly did so much including pressuring and hurting the pilgrims. Meanwhile, the Shiite pilgrims were on focus and were offended by the Saudi Hajj authorities for any possible excuses. They reportedly had different conditions from other pilgrims. The eyewitnesses maintained that Sunni pilgrims from other countries came for their help and consoled them after mistreatment of Saudi security forces.
The Saudi government said 1.3 million people attended this year’s Hajj while last year the number was 3.1 million. Although this year’s Hajj pilgrim’s number saw a considerable shrink and it was expected that the Saudi security forces show tolerance and treat the pilgrims well, this did not happen. The eyewitnesses told the Iraniandiplomacy.ir that the Saudi security forces spared no effort to mistreat and hurt the pilgrims.
We here quoted words of the eyewitnesses who talked on the condition of anonymity as they were in Mecca during making this report. One of them has told the Iranian diplomacy website” the situation is under heavy security, they (Saudi government) slowed down the internet connection on purpose and are trying to weaken pilgrims’ access to the outside world. The social networks are down, and we use proxy to pass filtering by Saudi government to get connected to our families. We can feel the heavy shadows of security forces everywhere.”
He added: “this year’s Hajj is uncrowded. This has provided the chance for pilgrims to perform Hajj rites with further easiness. But the heavy security conditions that are created by Saudi forces have pushed the pilgrims in fear as they perform rites.” Still another Hajj pilgrim has told the website “They clearly mistreat the Iranian pilgrims. They do their best to press the Iranian pilgrims to put strains on the Iranian government. Despite the fact that some Iranians received Saudi visa from other countries and attended Hajj for rites performing, the Saudi government is mistreating them.”
He added “Not only are the Iranians under pressures. The Wahhabism is getting hated day by day across Muslim world. The Sunnis obviously seek parting ways from the Wahhabists. This is why the Saudi leaders are very concerned. It gives out its concerns in its mistreatment of the Hajj pilgrims. For example, because Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, along with a couple of other al-Azhar scholars took part in Sunni conference in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, and came clean against the Wahhabism and branded them extremist apostates, the Saudis bristled at the Egyptians and exposed their anger in their treatment of Egyptian pilgrims. They, for example, intrude the residence of Egyptian pilgrims and search them. They limit their entry to some places. To humiliate them, they sometimes call them ” rafidi”, the same term used by them to discredit the Shiite Muslims. They withhold some services from them and show no respect to them.”
He continued “In some cases the same behavior was seen with the Lebanese, Tunisian, and Algerian Hajj pilgrims. Their harsh behavior has made them frustrated. Some pilgrims come to the Shiite Hajj missions and complain about the bad treatment of the Saudi security officers.”
Meanwhile, hurting and offending the Shiite pilgrims was more noticeable in comparison to other Muslims. On Friday, the Washington-based Shia Rights Watch (SRW) issued a statement, saying that an Iraqi pilgrim was detained by the Saudi security forces in a disrespectful way. They accused him of being Iranian– as if it is an offence to be an Iranian– and sentenced him to three months in prison and 300 lashes. SRW called the Saudi Arabian forces’ mistreatment discriminatory and has condemned it. It demanded that the Iraqi government reacts to this Saudi disrespect. A reporter of Iraniandiplomacy.ir has managed to talk to the harassed Iraqi pilgrim whose name is Alaa Mohammad Reza. Mohammad Reza told the reporter “the Saudi Arabian officers detained me while I was performing Rami al-Jamarat( stoning of the devil, a Hajj ritual), accusing me of going for performance several times. When I wanted to explain, they refused to listen to me. They took me to detention center and took my fingerprint. They then said that 10 years ago I travelled to Saudi Arabia from Iran. They took this as an excuse to hurt me. They chained my hands and kept me two nights at the detention center. They then said that they will show clemency because it was a sacred place, and so they sentenced me to three months in prison and 300 lashes. But this was not enough with them. They chained me to the Kaaba while I was encircled by the security forces. The situation was very disrespectful and saddening. My offense was being an Iranian while I have not done something wrong. I entered Saudi Arabia legally.” The man was freed by an Iraqi officials’ mediation and immediately left Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi authorities have declined to present any explanation for their abusive behavior. They claim that measures are taken to keep order during Hajj. However, many Hajj pilgrims argue that mistreatment of pilgrims, particularly the Shiites, is motivated by hatred and aversion. They assert that the Saudis want to press the Shiite Muslims.
Another pilgrim has told Iraniandiplomacy.ir “The more relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran became tense, the more strains Saudi officials put on Shiite pilgrims, as if they wanted to take it out on the Shiite pilgrims for strong Iranian response to their bad and inhumane behavior. In some cases we witnessed them held a pilgrim and subjected him to an inquisition, and after learning that he was Shiite Muslim, they irritated him. For, example, they disallowed him to perform tawaf( also a Hajj ritual) or limited him and so prevented him from Hajj rites full performing.
Although this year the Iranians were not allowed in Hajj and the number of the pilgrims was reduced to roughly half of last year, the Saudis continued their mistreatments. They this year, too, didn’t let the pilgrims to conclude their Hajj with peace. Death of 240 pilgrims without explaining about the causes lays bare the fact that the Saudi government still fails to secure safety of the pilgrims, and so shows shortcomings in Hajj administration.