A stampede in Mecca on the last day of the hajj pilgrimage took the lives of over 100 Iranian citizens, as the total death toll from the incident has surged to over 700 people, and the leaders of the regime in Tehran are furious with Saudi officials for their alleged negligence.
Ali Khamenei, the “Supreme Leader” of Iran, released a statement on the matter Friday.
“The Saudi government should accept its heavy responsibility in this bitter event and it should meet its obligations based on the principles of truth and fairness. The mismanagement and improper measures that caused this catastrophe should not be overlooked,” Iran’s dictator said, adding that there will be three days of mourning in Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani released a statement of his own, blaming the Saudis for the tragedy.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein-Amier Abdollahian added, “Under no conditions can we be indifferent toward Saudi Arabia’s irresponsible behavior.”
Iran’s Vice President, Eshagh Jahangiri, piled on: “The protection and security of the hajj is the responsibility of the Saudi Arabian government, and they have to act upon their duties, and the consequences of any negligence in this duty is on the government of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chair of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Commission, took his critique one step further, calling for the Saudis to surrender their oversight authority over the hajj.
“Saudi Arabia’s government has shown that they do not deserve management of the hajj because of two regretful incidents in a short period of time. It has been proven a number of times that Saudi Arabia does not have the competence or efficiency to conduct the hajj,” said Boroujerdi.
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran has always been shaky, as the two regional rivals represent the Muslim world’s most popular competing branches of Islam. Saudi Arabia is seen as the standard-bearer for Sunni Islam, as the kingdom controls Mecca and Medina, and Iran represents the Shia Islamic brand.
Saudi Arabian King Salman said Thursday that Riyadh would review its security plan to try to avoid another mass casualty disaster. He added, “this painful accident… does not take away from your great work to serve the pilgrims to perform their rituals with ease, comfort and calm,” praising the response of security forces on Saudi state-television.