by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 8, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1436)
The Mina deaths were not the first even if the present tragedy surpassed all previous totals. There is a long list of disasters that have befallen the pilgrims under Saudi-controlled Hajj.
Repeated horrors faced by hujjaj in the performance of Hajj rites have once again focused attention on Saudi mismanagement of one of the most important pillars of Islam.
This year’s Hajj has been one of the worst in living memory. It started with the September 11 crane crash into al-Masjid al-Haram itself killing 115 people and injuring several hundred others. This was followed a few days later (September 17) by a fire in a hotel in Aziziya (near Mina) in which mercifully no one died but dozens of people were injured. These disasters were eclipsed by the horrific deaths on September 24 of some 2,000 pilgrims in Mina (the Saudis have admitted to 770 deaths so far but with more than 800 injured and thousands missing, the actual death toll is likely to be closer to the higher figure).
Below we give a list of disasters under Saudi-controlled Hajj.
1975: Mina is referred to as the ‘Tent City’ because the pilgrims stay there in tents for several days. A fire during that year’s Hajj in Mina killed about 200 pilgrims. An exploding gas tank inside a tent in an area where mostly Turkish and Nigerian Muslims were staying caused the fire.
1979: On November 4, hundreds of people—members of the Otayba and Juhayman clans of Arabia including their wives and children—sought refugee in al-Majid al-Haram when their plot to overthrow the Saudi regime was uncovered. The Wahhabi regime brought French and Moroccan paratroopers and used heavy weapons to attack the holiest sanctuary in Islam, every action in complete violation of Qur’anic injunctions. When the mayhem ended more than 230 people lay dead, almost all of them inside the Haram.
1987: On 31 July, 402 people, mostly Iranian pilgrims, were shot and killed and 649 wounded in Makkah when Saudi security forces commanded by a German General Ulrich Wegner specially brought in to plan and supervise the massacre, attacked Iranian pilgrims. The massacre occurred despite prior arrangements agreed between the Iranian and Saudi authorities for the Bara’at min al mushrikeen march to take place (this is based on the Qur’anic command in Surah al-Tawbah, ayat [9:03]). Crescent International Editor Zafar Bangash happened to be present there and wrote a book, titled, The Makkah massacre and the future of the Haramain, about the Saudi crime against innocent pilgrims.
1990: On July 2, some 1,426 Muslim pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede in a pedestrian tunnel outside of Makkah in Mina. The stampede occurred because the Saudi security forces closed the tunnel exit because some ‘prince’ and his entourage were passing nearby!
1994: A stampede near the Jamarat site in Mina where pilgrims undertake the ritual of stoning the devil killed 270 pilgrims. Most of the disasters occur in Mina because of lack of crowd control and Saudi mismanagement.
1997: On April 17, a fire in the tents in Mina killed 346 pilgrims and injured 1,500 others.
1998: Another stampede a year later (1998) resulted in the death of 180 pilgrims close to the Jamarat site.
2001: In February 2001, an early morning stampede at the same Jamarat site killed 145 pilgrims, most of them Pakistani women. Crescent International editor (Zafar Bangash) and their group were held up in traffic from Muzdalifah to their tent in Mina for 8 hours (normally it would take barely 15-20 minutes) because the police had blocked off several streets. They would not tell anyone why the streets were blocked off and what alternate routes could be used.
2003: 14 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual when thousands of people were forced by Saudi police to pass through a narrow passageway.
2004: On February 1, stampede at the same Jamarat site killed 251 pilgrims and injured another 244.
2005: Three pilgrims were crushed to death in a stampede at the stoning site in Jamarat in Mina.
2006: A four-storey hotel just 60 meters from the walls of al-Masjid al-Haram collapsed, killing 76 people and wounding dozens of others.
2006: A few days later (January 12), 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.
2015: At least 115 people are killed and hundreds injured when a crane collapsed into al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, Islam’s holiest site, on September 11.
2015: On September 24, another stampede resulted in the death of some 2,000 pilgrims. This is the direct result of Saudi security forces blocking two streets as well as gates leading to the stoning site. Reports say that deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and his entourage of some 350 were passing through and heading toward the palace where king Salman was receiving ‘dignitaries.’
Were all of the above God’s Will and humans had no role to play in them as the Saudi court mufti, Shaykh Abd al Aziz al Shaykh claimed? Did God order the Saudis to block off the streets so that some Saudi ‘royal’ could pass through even if it would result in overcrowding, suffocation and the pilgrims’ urge to leave as soon as possible causing a stampede killing innocent people?