Iran’s Hajj chief heads to Saudi Arabia

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SHAFAQNA – Saeid Owhadi, the Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization flew to Saudi Arabia leading an Iranian delegation for talks over Hajj rituals.

“This is the last chance to have Iranian pilgrims in the current year’s Hajj rituals,” said Saeid Owhadi, the Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization to the IRIB before leaving Tehran for Jeddah, on Tuesday.

The official recounted that after new appointments in Saudi Ministry of Hajj, Iran received firstly a letter from the new Saudi minister that Iranian pilgrims’ visas will be issued via Saudi mission in Tehran, and secondly another one inviting Iranian officials to talk over the issue in Saudi city of Jeddah.

“After expert-level talks with representatives from different organizations in Iran, finally it was decided to have an Iranian delegation attend the talks,” said the Iranian official.

He highlighted that guarantee for respecting the Iranian pilgrims is one of the agenda of the talks and an agreement should be reached indicating the ways Saudis guarantee the security of pilgrims.

“Following the three deadly tragedies in last year’s rituals, security is one of the major concerns of Iranians,” affirmed Owhadi.

The official asserted that Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization of Iran has proposed 20 strategies to Saudis to have a better running of rituals and pointed that visa issuance at Tehran was one of the 11 conditions of Iran for joining the talks.

Condemning Saudis’ hesitation in accepting Iranian pilgrims for Hajj, Owhadi announced that the KSA should bear the blame in Islamic and international venues for these acts.

On Thursday, September 26, 2015, in an unprecedented incident, 4,173 pilgrims were suffocated in Mina during Hajj rituals in Saudi Arabia. The event was the third in a row during the rituals of 2015, as earlier on September 11, a massive construction crane collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 people and leaving over 200 others wounded, and on September 21, a fire at a 15-story hotel in Mecca forced the evacuation of some 1,500 people. A fire also broke out at another hotel in the city days earlier, which left a number of foreigners injured.

Saudi Vice-Minister of Health, Hamad bin Muhammad Al-Duweila, posted online, three days after the event on September 29, that the death toll in Mina tragedy had reached 4,173 but his post was removed minutes later and the news was dismissed by Saudi officials.

While a total of 2,411 dead pilgrims were identified by countries sending their citizens to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom never corrected his official announcement of toll of 769 deaths.

Iranian pilgrims suffered the highest number in the tragedy with 464 deaths, and state announcement showed that among the bold numbers 312 pilgrims from Mali, 274 from Nigeria, 190 from Egypt, 137 from Bangladesh, 129 from Indonesia, 114 from India, and 106 from Cameroon were killed in the event.

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