Hajj 2016 is proceeding while Iranian pilgrims didn’t attend one of the biggest Muslim ceremonies due to conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Meanwhile, some pilgrims from Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq were also prevented from travel to Mecca because of harsh policies of the new generation of Saudi rulers. Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has been supporting salafist groups in Syria and Iraq and have tried to spread insecurity to Lebanon and Iran as well. Consequently, in December 2015 German intelligence had warned that Saudi Arabia was at risk of becoming a major destabilizing influence in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Leader of Islamic Revolution on Monday September 5 issued an important message to all Muslims around the world in which he paralleled Saudi Arabian authorities with the Quranic term “evil progeny of the taghut” which refers to Umayyad dynasty in Islamic history. The message and its harsh rhetoric reflects deepened conflict between Tehran and Riyadh. The conflict, however, doesn’t seem to be only at political levels and majority of Iranians are strongly opposed to the Saudi regime.
Here are five major reasons Iranian people hate Saudi rulers:
1- The hajj stampede in 2015 caused a new flare-up in tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The September 2015 stampede and crush of pilgrims killed at least 7,477 people, according to a list that was published by Saudi Ministry of Health. Tehran has said 464 of the dead were Iranian and those who survived blame the catastrophe on Saudi mismanagement of the annual pilgrimage. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on the United Nations to investigate the incident. Iran has urged Saudi Arabia to apologize for the disaster and form an international Islamic fact-finding committee, but it has so far been refuted by Saudi rulers. In his recent message, Iran’s Leader highlighted the problem; “instead of apology and remorse and judicial prosecution of those who were directly at fault in that horrifying event, Saudi rulers – with utmost shamelessness and insolence – refused to allow the formation of an international Islamic fact-finding committee.”
2) In April 2015, 2 Iranian teenage pilgrims were sexually harassed by two Saudi security officers at Jeddah Airport. After that, thousands of Iranians protested outside Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran over the abuse of these two Iranian pilgrims. On April 13th, Iran suspended minor hajj trips to Saudi Arabia until the Saudi government “applies a strong attitude” to the case. Although Saud al-Faisal, FM of Saudi Arabia, has pledged to Iran’s ambassador that his government will punish the two Saudi policemen very soon, nothing has happened yet!
3) On 31 July 1987 around 400 pilgrims, out of which two thirds had Iranian nationality were killed by Saudi security forces during a gathering. Iranian officials maintain that the Saudis had opened fire on the demonstrators without provocation, and that the demonstrations had been peaceful. For people of Iran and perhaps for the families of martyrs in other countries, that event is a sad event and that year’s Hajj is known and recalled as ‘Bloody Hajj’.
4) As the leading global exporter of oil, Saudi Arabia has refused to cut production in the face of plummeting oil prices to defend its market share. As a result, the world is now awash in cheap oil. The drop in prices already has forced Iran to splash its government budget. Saudi Arabia has used the oil price as a leverage to put pressure on Iran’s economy just at a time when the sanctions were imposed on Iran’s economy.
5) About a month ago, Saudi Arabia hosted Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) leader Maryam Rajavi and supported the militia group’s gathering in France. This group initially did find its place on some Western state’s terror list. The MKO terrorist organization has a long record of assassinations taking lives of around 12000 high ranking Iranian officials and civilians. One of the most terrible of such terrorist attacks by the MKO was the bombing of the Islamic Republic Party’s headquarters. During this terrorist attack then-Head of Iran’s Supreme Court, Ayatollah Beheshti along with 72 of Iranian ministers, MPs and politicians were killed. Saudi Arabia is trying to reinvigorate MKO and other terrorist groups against Iranian People. Moreover, Saudis have long supported separatists groups such as ‘Pan-Turkism Party,’ ‘Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz,’ ‘Jundallah,’ etc.
By Ali Rajabi,
Ali Rajabi is a Tehran-based journalist working as political editor of Hamshahri newspaper.