Iranian families to visit Saudi Arabia to identify Hajj crush victims
Eleven relatives of the Iranian victims of the 2015 Hajj crush in Saudi Arabia are to travel to the kingdom to identify their loved ones.
Seyyed Ali Qazi-Askar, the representative of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in Hajj and pilgrimage affairs, made the remarks on Saturday.
The human crush in Mina, near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, in September 2015 killed thousands of pilgrims, including hundreds of Iranians. The incident cast doubt on the kingdom’s efficiency in hosting the rituals.
Unofficial sources put the death toll at almost 7,000 people. Iran said about 465 of its nationals lost their lives in the incident.
Riyadh cut its ties with Tehran in early 2016 after protests were held in front of its Iran-based diplomatic missions against the kingdom’s earlier execution of leading Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
As a result, the families of the victims were unable to visit Saudi Arabia to identify their loved ones as Iran decided to keep its pilgrims at home because of the kingdom’s refusal to guarantee their safety.
In January, however, Iran decided to send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia after Riyadh accepted the Islamic Republic’s conditions.
Qazi-Askar said the relatives of the Iranian victims were to arrive in the kingdom in the coming days as he urged Riyadh to cooperate on the identification process, including DNA tests.
By Saturday night, he said, 55,500 Iranian pilgrims would have been accommodated in Mecca, and 7,500 others Medina, another holy Saudi city, adding that flights continued to take pilgrims from the Islamic Republic to airports in Medina, and the Saudi port city of Jeddah.