A few 64,000 Iranian pilgrims will return home in the coming days by 218 flights to different cities throughout the country. The reports have set up a war of words between mainly Shiite Iran and overwhelmingly Sunni Saudi Arabia.
Responding to the blast from Iran, Saudi Foreign Minister said, “This is not a situation with which to play politics”.
Iranian leaders have been critical of Saudi officials and blamed their mismanagement of the massive crowds for the deaths.
“I ask the Saudi Arabian government to take responsibility for this catastrophe and fulfill its legal and Islamic duties in this regard”, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, in New York for the UN General Assembly, said in a statement. “The al-Saud must be responsive”, Iran’s State Prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi told state TV, referring to Saudi Arabia’s ruling family.
Speaking before a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations on Sunday, he added that “we are going to disclose the truth when it comes out and not hide anything”.
The Iranian delegation is still waiting for visas to enter Saudi Arabia, in order to start overseeing the treatment of injured Iranians and the repatriation of the remains of victims of the stampede, according to Iranian state television.
The stampede that caused the death of 769 and the injury of over 900 pilgrims performing the final rituals of Hajj is a tragedy, no doubt, but no country should use the disaster for political ends.
India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that Saudi authorities have released photos of pilgrims who died in Thursday’s stampede.
King Salman has ordered an urgent safety review into the tragedy, admitting there was a need “to improve” organisation at the pilgrimage attended by nearly two million people this year.
Iran says that at least 136 Iranians are among the dead, while more than 300 other Iranians remain unaccounted for, including former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, the Fars news agency reported. Combined with the crane collapse this month, which killed more than 100 people, this pilgrimage season has been particularly harrowing.