Saudis must do something to protect pilgrims: Analyst

Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where over 700 people were killed and hundreds wounded in a crush in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Press TV has conducted an interview with Navid Nasr, a political analyst in Zagreb, to discuss a crush during Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia which trampled hundreds of people to death.

Following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: We seem to repeat this every year that many people are killed in Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage. What is the major problem? Why is that the case in your perspective?

Nasr: I am not sure, but I do know that usually what happens is - not usually what happens - every single time promises are made that things will be different but it does not happen. What always happens is after the fact, they send thousands of security personnel and rescue people to the scene, but it is already a chaotic scene with thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, there. Not much can be done once the cat is out of the bag. We are talking about - what was it - 450 people killed and another almost 800 people injured. That is an absolute tragedy, and it happens - maybe not to that extent, those numbers maybe slightly less - but it happens a lot of years, and it is just enough, enough with building these gaudy, disgusting hotels right at the foot of the Ka’aba. Enough of that! Do something to protect the pilgrims, do something to protect the people who have saved up for their entire lives to do this, to make the Hajj, to fulfill their religious obligation! Do something to protect the people instead of doing something after the fact when hundreds have been killed and hundreds more injured!

Press TV: We look at the situation because obviously Saudi Arabia does not like money and of course these pilgrims are paying money to actually go to Hajj. We compare it to another event that would probably be Arba’een in Karbala, Iraq, during the month of Safar (the second month in the lunar calendar), and we look at somewhere between many would say 15 million to 20 million people actually going to Karbala, and of course with the situation that Iraq has right now, obviously not strong of any economic situation there and security wise, and yet we have less numbers dying in Iraq than in Saudi Arabia. Why is that the case?

Nasr: That is actually true. The pilgrims who go to Iraq are also, but they know actually that they are taking their life in their own hands and there is security situations; ISIS (Daesh) has for years now carried out horrible suicide bombings during Arba’een and other times of the year, other pilgrimage times and festivals. They do this on purpose and deliberately to cause chaos and inflict as much death as possible. But still the numbers are not as high as they were today in Mecca. Even deliberate concerted efforts in Iraq by ISIS to kill civilians during the pilgrimage in Arba’een do not take the human toll that the accident in Mecca did today. That says something. The Iraqi government may not be as strong as it could be in terms of certain things, but it makes an effort at least to provide security for people, and even when that goes wrong, even when an attack happens, it is not as devastating as what happened today. That is sad. That is pathetic. Especially, like you said, considering Saudi Arabia’s wealth.

Press TV: Do you think it is time Mr. Nasr that overall the control of Hajj or the organization of Hajj should not be in the hands of the Saudis but in the hands of a general Muslim community, that some type of committee could be set up, and this entity should be the one responsible for the running of Hajj?

Nasr: That is how it should be. But the question then becomes and Saudi government will phrase this way, ‘It is a matter of sovereignty and national territorial whatever integrity,’ at that point and they probably would not be willing to concede that. Let’s be honest again as we have talked about a huge moneymaker for them, these pilgrims, it is not free for them. Like I said many of them save up an entire life time, that is because it is not cheap necessarily to do this. So it is a huge moneymaker for Saudi Arabia on top of the natural resources that they have access to and all the other things. They are not going to be willing to do something that minimizes that in terms of huge influx of money into the kingdom.

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