Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei renewed criticism of Saudi Arabia over how it runs the hajj after a crash last year killed hundreds of pilgrims, and suggested Muslim countries think about ending Riyadh’s control of the annual pilgrimage, while Saudi accused him of politicizing the annual holy event.
“Because of Saudi rulers’ oppressive behavior towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj,” Khamenei wrote in a statement on his official website
“They murdered them,” Khamenei wrote in an emotionally charged address.
“The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers – instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst,” the leader stated, though he offered no evidence to support his allegations. He also accused the Saudis, who he called “small and puny satans,” of “treason” for failing to provide sufficient security for the hajj, saying they had been too busy catering to the United States to arrange it.
“Saudi rulers […] are disgraced and misguided people. [They] tremble for fear of jeopardizing the interests of the Great Satan, the US,” Khamenei wrote.
“They must not let those rulers escape responsibility for the crimes they have caused throughout the world of Islam,” Khamenei said, listing Saudi Arabia’s involvement in conflicts in areas including Iraq, Yemen and Syria on the side of forces Iran opposes.
Saudi Arabia accused Iran, its main regional rival, of seeking to politicize this month’s event, saying in turn on Monday that Iran was compromising safety with its actions.
“The Iranian authorities are the ones who don’t want the Iranian pilgrims to come here for reasons concerning the Iranians themselves and in light of them seeking to politicize hajj and turn it into rituals against Islam’s teachings and that compromise the safety of hajj,” the state news agency SPA quoted Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as saying.
The crown prince dismissed Khamenei as lacking credibility and objectivity, stressing that the Saudis have never treated Iranian pilgrims any differently than the other pilgrims, while Iranian pilgrims do not always respect the rules of hajj.
“[They use hajj] to violate the teachings of Islam, through shouting slogans and disturbing the security of pilgrims,” he noted.
Bin Nayef stressed that the Saudis consider it their sacred duty to provide all of the pilgrims “with all safety and security.”
Custodian of Islam’s most revered places in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on organizing hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to is obliged to undertake at least once.
Riyadh said 769 pilgrims were killed in the 2015 disaster – the highest hajj death toll since a crush in 1990. Counts of fatalities by countries who repatriated bodies showed that over 2,000 people may have died in the crush, more than 400 of them Iranians.
“What Iranian media and some Iranian officials are raising is not objective and they know before anyone else that the kingdom has given the Iranian pilgrims what it gave others,” Prince Nayef said.
Iran blamed the 2015 disaster on organizers’ incompetence. Pilgrims from Iran will be unable to attend hajj, which starts on Sept. 11, this year after talks between the two countries on arrangements broke down in May.