Saudi withholding Iranians’ blood money: Iran Hajj official
The head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization says Saudi Arabia continues to withhold all cooperation toward compensating the victims of a deadly crush during Hajj pilgrimage rituals last year.
At least 465 Iranian pilgrims lost their lives during the deadly crush, which occurred after two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads in Mina near Mecca during Hajj rituals on September 24, 2015.
“Saudi Arabia refuses to offer the smallest amount of cooperation in this regard (providing compensation for the victims); and not only does it not pay any blood money, but also, interestingly, it has failed to turn over the bodies of martyrs from many countries other than the Islamic Republic,” Saeed Ohadi told Fars News Agency, in remarks published on Wednesday.
Days into the crush, Saudi Arabia published a death toll of 770 but refused to update it despite surging fatality figures from individual countries whose nationals had been among the victims of the crush. Observers say Saudi Arabia is refusing to release an official death toll because it fears that the large figure will speak of the regime’s catastrophic mismanagement of the Hajj rituals.
Iran says about 4,700 people, including the 465 Iranians, lost their lives in the incident.
Iran has canceled the participation of its pilgrims in this year’s Hajj rituals due in September because of Saudi Arabia’s refusal to guarantee the safety of pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia, which has also cut diplomatic ties with Iran, has halted flights to and from Iran.
Iranians were made unable to perform the Umrah Hajj (minor pilgrimage) this year after Riyadh refused to cooperate over the procedures required to enable their travel to Saudi Arabia.
Ohadi, the Iranian Hajj official, said the resumption of the Umrah pilgrimage would be contingent upon Saudi Arabia applying justice to the Saudi officers who abused two Iranian teenagers while performing body search on passengers at the airport in the Saudi port city of Jeddah last year.
The Mina tragedy came days after a massive construction crane collapsed into the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing more than 100 people, including a number of Iranians, and leaving over 200 others wounded.
Ohadi said he hoped the Saudi officials would come to their senses and cooperate over the compensation of the victims of the two incidents.