Tehran, Iran, May 29
By Mehdi Sepahvand - Trend:
Iran has withdrawn from this year's Muslim pilgrimage of hajj.
Accusing Saudi Arabia of failing to meet Tehran's demands about ample security for pilgrims, Iranian Minister of Culture Ali Jannati said Iran will not send any people to Saudi Arabia for the ritual this year, Fars news agency reported May 29.
"There is some inclination in the Saudi government to prevent Iranian pilgrims from officially performing the hajj this year," he stated.
The minister said the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization will issue an official announcement to the effect the following day.
He cited last year's huge death toll among Iranian pilgrims, as well as many past mistreatments by the Saudi government, as reason for withdrawing from the worldwide Muslim gathering.
Last year about 2,000 Iranian pilgrims were crushed to death in a stampede around Mecca, the Muslim holy city. Iran accused Riyadh of deliberate sloppiness in handling the situation and treating the patients.
A few months earlier, Saudi guards at an airport had sexually abused an Iranian minor who had traveled there with his family to perform the hajj ritual.
In 1987, 275 Iranian pilgrims and tens of others from elsewhere were killed by Saudi forces. The pilgrims were participating an Iranian-led demonstration against Israel and the United States, held annually since 1981.