Overcrowding to blame for stampede: Eyewitnesses

Mina’s Street No. 204 (Sharea Mina Al-Jadid), which was the scene of a massive stampede on Thursday, looked eerily calm on Friday.

Mina’s Street No. 204 (Sharea Mina Al-Jadid), which was the scene of a massive stampede on Thursday, looked eerily calm on Friday.

Several eyewitnesses held the view that the unfortunate incident at Mina happened because a large number of pilgrims converged on Street 204 at the same time. This ensued in panic that contributed to the suffocation of many of them while they were trying to escape the sudden stampede.

A pilgrim, Haj Abdulmunim Al-Safwan, said the majority of the dead people were elderly people who were walking with their children. They were not able to leave the children behind, thus they moved forward quickly or jogged to keep up with the crowd, which was an impossible task.

Other stories from eyewitnesses reveal that the stampede happened as a rush of Iranian pilgrims passed through Souq Al-Arab Street and refused to return, ignoring guidelines, as was reported by the website Sabq.

The website also quoted one of the officials in charge of the campaign as saying that “the Iranian pilgrims did not listen to the guidelines, ignored it and confronted us. They were raising slogans before the incident.”

In an expected act, Hussein Amir Abdul Leehan, assistant foreign minister of Iran, held the Saudi government responsible for the incident, said the website. Iranian officials have declared that 41 Iranian pilgrims died in the incident and 60 others were injured.

In most cases, Iranians indulged in excesses during Haj to promote what they call an Islamic revolution among pilgrims. Iranians have tried to transform the occasion of Haj as their political platform, exploiting some of their pilgrims to confront other pilgrims and security forces, said the website.

It also revealed that recently a Houthi leader, Mohammad Al-Maqaleh, wrote on his Facebook page that this year “during Haj there would be incidents which would not have examples in the history. Knock O men of Allah before the season so that you are crowned the day of staying in the mountain of Arafat.”

The post also said that some Haj pilgrims were organizing protest marches resulting in bloody confrontation as in the Haj of 1987. After that Iran boycotted Haj seasons between 1988 and 1990. Only after that did Iranian delegations start coming for Haj.

In 1987, Iranian pilgrims indulged in rioting and political protests. They held the portrait of their leader Ruhollah Khomeini and shouted slogans of the Iranian revolution on one hand and condemed US and Israel on the other. They created obstructions on roads.

In the past, Iranian pilgrims also tried to storm into the Holy Mosque of Makkah leading to confrontations between protesters and security forces. The Al-Muaisem tunnel incident of 1989 was most dangerous incident in which Iran was involved.


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