Hajj crush: Iran death toll rises to 464

Iran says number of its citizens who died in Saudi stampede has nearly doubled since previous toll, as disaster threatens to further strain relations


Rescuers at site of hajj stampede          Iran’s death toll from the Saudi hajj disaster has nearly doubled to 464, a development that is likely to further strain ties between the Middle Eastern rivals.

It was not immediately clear how the rise in the Islamic republic’s death toll, announced on the website of Iranian state TV, would affect the overall toll from last month’s disaster near Islam’s holy city of Mecca.

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry reported on Saturday that the crush and stampede killed at least 769 pilgrims and injured 934, but Pakistan, India, Indonesia and Iran have suggested the true figures could be higher.

Saudi state media and officials made no immediate comment on the Iranian announcement, though they say they are investigating what caused the crush and stampede in Mina.

The disaster has fed into the bitter rivalry between the Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Shia Iran, which back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen. On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader warned of “harsh” measures if the kingdom failed to promptly repatriate the bodies of the Islamic republic’s dead.

“The Saudi government is not carrying out its obligation to repatriate and in some cases shows slyness,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told military commanders in northern Iran in comments broadcast on state TV. “The Islamic Republic of Iran has so far showed self-restraint, observed Islamic decency and brotherly respect in the Islamic world, but they should know that Iran’s hand is superior to many others and has more capabilities. If Iran wants to react to disturbing and sinister elements, their situation will not be good.”

Iran has led a chorus of international criticism directed at Saudi Arabia’s response to the incident, saying its diplomats were not given access to victims until days after the stampede. That criticism was also levied by Indonesia.

Iranians have staged daily protests near the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and President Hassan Rouhani devoted a significant part of his speech at the UN general assembly on Monday to blaming Saudi authorities for the disaster and demanding a full investigation.

Indonesia, Pakistan and India have said their diplomats received 1,100 pictures of the hajj dead, suggesting a higher death toll than Saudi officials announced.

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday the photos were of those who died during the entire pilgrimage and not just at the disaster.

The accusations of mismanagement of the pilgrimage strike at a key pillar of the Saudi royal family’s prestige, with King Salman holding the title of the custodian of the two holy mosques.


The Guardian



Fatima Achouri

Sociologue spécialiste de l’islam contemporain.

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