Saudis should no longer handle Mecca Haj, Iranian MP says after crane disaster

Sunni lawmaker calls Saudi regime careless after accident that killed scores.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
September 14, 2015 09:13
2 minute read.
A Muslim pilgrim prays around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca

A Muslim pilgrim prays around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Hedayatollah Mir-Moradzehi, a member of the Iranian parliament who is Sunni, believes that following the deadly crane accident at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia should no longer be in cahrge of the Haj ceremony at the Muslim holy site.

"This incident is the result of the Saudi regime's imprudence and carelessness and they should have increased the safety factor for the construction projects around Kaaba,"  Mir-Moradzehi told Iran's Fars News Agency on Sunday. 

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At least 87 people were killed when a crane crashed at the famous mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defense authority said, in an accident that came just weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage.

The Saudi authorities said that 154 people were also injured in the accident.

Mir-Moradzehi told the Iranian news agency that if Islamic countries within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) take the responsibility of handling the Haj ceremony, much better results will be yielded.

The lawmaker emphasized that Kaaba, the building at the center of the mosque, doesn’t merely belong to Saudi Arabia and it is for all the Muslims and therefore all of them should cooperate in running and administering the Haj ceremony, Fars reported.

Another Iranian lawmaker joined Mir-Moradzehi in his criticism of the Saudi government.



"The Saudi regime showed that it doesn't have enough capability to secure the safety of the pilgrims and manage the Haj ceremony," member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Javad Jahangirzadeh told Fars.

Al Arabiya television earlier said the crane had fallen because of strong storms - western Saudi Arabia has been hit by strong sand storms in the last few days.

Pictures circulating on social media showed pilgrims in bloodied robes and masses of debris from a part of the crane that seemed to have crashed through a ceiling.

Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the millions of Muslim who converge on Mecca to perform the sacred pilgrimage. Last year, it reduced the numbers permitted to perform haj for safety reasons because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque.

The pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rushed to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a stampede in 2006.

Saudi authorities have since lavished vast sums to expand the main haj sites and improve Mecca's transportation system, in an effort to prevent more disasters.

Security services often ring Islam's sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorization.

Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years as security threats grow throughout the Middle East.

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