A prominent Lebanese cleric has denounced Saudi Arabia’s mishandling of the Hajj pilgrimage, which led to a deadly crush last year, saying the tragedy cannot pass just as an ordinary accident.
Sheikh Maher Hammoud, the imam of al-Quds Mosque in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, told Press TV on Friday that his first impression was to avoid exaggeration and consider the incident as the fate of the victims.
“However, when we saw how they dealt with the bodies and how they buried them without permission of their families … , whether with the Iranians or others, then we said this is not a mere accident and there must have been mismanagement on their part,” Hammoud said.
Thousands of people lost their lives near Mecca on September 24, 2015 after two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads during the symbolic ceremony of the stoning of Satan.
Hammoud accused Saudi officials of dealing with the human crush in an “illogical manner,” saying Riyadh behaves like a dictator when it comes to who should govern the Hajj rituals.
The crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the pilgrimage. According to an Associated Press count based on official statements from the 36 countries that lost citizens in the disaster, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in the incident.
Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.
Last month, Iranian authorities cancelled Hajj after Saudi Arabia refused to guarantee the safety of its pilgrims and made unconventional demands instead.
Hammoud denounced attempts by Saudi media to distort the truth, saying the Al Saud regime is also seeking to take revenge on Iran over its failures in Yemen and Syria.
He further called on Saudi authorities to be more rational when addressing the acceptable and logical demands of Iranian pilgrims.
Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, said on May 30 that Riyadh tried to impose new restrictions on Iranian Hajj pilgrims, making it impossible for the Islamic Republic to accept the whole agreement.
On May 29, Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati also slammed Riyadh for manipulating Hajj for its own “political” goals.