Hajj Disasters: Fires, Revolts, Stampedes

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smoke rising from the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979

The Hajj was cancelled for the first time In A.D. 629 before Muhammad's death, due massacres occurring on Mount Arafat. In A.D. 865 the Hajj was cancelled for the same reason. Ismail ibn Yousef attacked pilgrims at Mount Arafat during his conflict with the Abbasid caliphate. Although numbers of pilgrims were sharply reduced during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021 the Hajj was still held. The last time the pilgrimage was cancelled outright was in 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt.

The Hajj usually transpires without disasters but mishaps, deaths from natural causes and incidents occur. In 2005, for example, some heavy rains flooded streets and trapped some pilgrims camped out on the top of mountains overlooking the Jamarat Bridge but they were rescued by helicopter.

A number of tragedies have occurred during the “stoning of Satan” ritual on the last day of the Hajj at Jamarat Bridge in Mina. During the ritual pilgrims are not allowed to cast their stones until noon. When noon finally arrives there is a huge rush to get to the stoning sites. Up until 2004 huge crowds surged toward three pillars, threw their stones and then surged away. Describing the rush, Pakistani writer Akbar Ahmed wrote: “We joined a dusty march 100,000 strong...I was terrified, for the way so narrow...My beloved daughter looked so small and vulnerable. But she fought her way through the crowd like a little tiger to cast stones.”

Unfortunately, sometimes stampedes or other tragedies occur and pilgrims are crushed, pushed off the bridges and trampled to death. To prevent problems helicopters hoover overhead, looking for fainting people. Workers on trucks dispense cold water. Security personal have devises, special indicators and systems to measure the number of pilgrims at different locations and to help with crowd control, as well as a variety of tools to manage the flow of people. Policemen with megaphone pleaded in Arabic, English, French and Urdu for people to move along quickly. Other policemen wield batons to make sure there is enough room for people to escape the crowds.

Websites and Resources: Islam IslamOnline islamonline.net ; Institute for Social Policy and Understanding ispu.org; Islam.com islam.com ; Islamic City islamicity.com ; BBC article bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts web.archive.org ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam britannica.com ; Islam at Project Gutenberg gutenberg.org ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary pbs.org frontline

1757 Hajj Caravan Raid That Left Thousands Dead

Before a railway was built to Mecca, Muslim rulers organized massive caravans with armed escorts that would depart from Cairo, Damascus and other cities. It was an arduous journey through deserts and Bedouin tribes carried out raids and demanded tribute. A notorious Bedouin raid in 1757 wiped out an entire Hajj caravan, killing thousands of pilgrims. [Source: Associated Press., June 26, 2023]

The Hajj caravan raid occurred when the Hajj caravan of 1757 was returning to Damascus from Mecca and was carried out by Bedouin tribesmen. The caravan was under the protection of an Ottoman force led by the Wali of Damascus, Husayn Pasha, and his deputy Musa Pasha, while the Bedouin were led by Qa'dan al-Fayez of the Bani Sakher tribe. An estimated 20,000 pilgrims were either killed or died of hunger or thirst as a result of the raid. Although Bedouin raids on the Hajj caravan were fairly common, the 1757 raid was deadliest and "most famous" and caused a crisis in the Ottoman Government. [Source: Wikipedia]

At the immediate outset of the raid of the main caravan, numerous pilgrims were killed. The Bedouin tribesmen plundered the caravan of its remaining provisions and goods and withdrew. Among the looted items was the highly decorated mahmal (litter) that represented the sovereignty of the Ottoman Sultan. Some 20,000 pilgrims were either killed by the attackers, died of their wounds, or died of hunger or thirst on the way back to Damascus. Among the dead pilgrims was one of the sisters of the Sultan himself. Husayn Pasha survived, but did not return to Damascus, fearing for his safety. The 18th-century Damascus-based chronicler Ahmed al-Budeiri recorded that pilgrims, men and women, were stripped of their clothing and left naked in the desert by the Bedouin raiders.

Attacks and Protests at the Hajj

November 20, 1979 — Hundreds of gunmen calling for the abdication of the Saudi royal family barricade themselves inside Mecca's Grand Mosque, taking dozens of pilgrims hostage. The official toll of the assault and subsequent fighting is 153 dead and 560 wounded.
July 31, 1987 — Saudi security forces suppress an unauthorised protest by Iranian pilgrims in which more than 400 people including 275 Iranians are killed, according to an official toll.
July 10, 1989 — A twin attack on the outside of the Grand Mosque on July 10 kills one and wounds 16. Weeks later, 16 Kuwaiti Shias are found guilty and executed. [Source: AFP June 23, 2023]

On incidents in the more remote past, Ken Chitwood wrote in Quartz: One of the earliest significant interruptions of the hajj took place in A.D. 930, when a sect of Ismailis, a minority Shia community, known as the Qarmatians raided Mecca because they believed the hajj to be a pagan ritual. The Qarmatians were said to have killed scores of pilgrims and absconded with the black stone of the Kaaba — which Muslims believed was sent down from heaven. They took the stone to their stronghold in modern-day Bahrain. Hajj was suspended until the Abbasids, a Muslim dynasty that ruled over a vast empire stretching across North Africa, the Middle East to modern-day India from A.D. 750-1258, paid a ransom for its return over 20 years later. The leader of the Qarmatians, Abu Taher Al-Janabi, led attacks on Mecca. Some historians estimate that more than 30,000 people died as a result of the violence associated with the whole episode. [Source: Ken Chitwood, Quartz, June 26, 2020]

Political disagreements and conflict have often meant that pilgrims from certain places were kept from performing hajj because of lack of protection along overland routes into the Hijaz, the region in the west of Saudi Arabia where both Mecca and Medina are located. In A.D. 983, the rulers of Baghdad and Egypt were at war. The Fatimid rulers of Egypt claimed to be the true leaders of Islam and opposed the rule of the Abbasid dynasty in Iraq and Syria. Their political tug-of-war kept various pilgrims from Mecca and Medina for eight years, until 991. Then, during the fall of the Fatimids in A.D. 1168, Egyptians could not enter the Hijaz. It is also said that no one from Baghdad performed hajj for years after the city fell to Mongol invasion in A.D. 1258. Many years later, Napoleon’s military incursions aimed at checking British colonial influence in the region prevented many pilgrims from hajj between A.D. 1798 and 1801.

And then political issues that stop pilgrimas from participating in the Hajj. Some Shia governments such as Iran, have leveled charges alleging discrimination by Sunni Saudi authorities. alleging they have not not allowed Shias to perform the pilgrimage. In 2017, citizens of Qatar were not able to perform the hajj following the decision by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations to severe diplomatic ties with the country. “The same year, some Shia governments such as Iran leveled charges alleging that Shias were not allowed to perform the pilgrimage by Sunni Saudi authorities. To address such issues, many Muslims have called for the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an intergovernmental organization, to put together an international, multi-partisan committee to organize the pilgrimage. [Source: Ken Chitwood, University of Florida, The Conversation, September 1, 2017]

Revolt In Mecca During the Hajj in 1979

Saudi soldiers at Mecca in 1979

In November 1979, a group of about a 350 armed Muslim radicals, stormed the Grand Mosque during morning prayers in Mecca — Islam’s holiest site. They demanded that one of their members be declared a mahdi, a Muslim equivalent of a messiah. When the chief imam at the mosque said that such a claim was heretical, shooting broke out and the radicals took hostages. The revolt caused great upheaval in Muslim world community and was a great embarrassment to the Saudi royal family, guardians if Islam’s holiest shrines. An estimated 250 people were killed. The leader of the radicals and 62 of his followers were beheaded.

Most of the radicals were Saudis but there also Egyptians, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Sudanese Yemenis, Somalis and one Ethiopian. The group claimed that their aim was to “purify Islam” and liberate the Holy Land from the royal “clique of infidels.” The leaders of the radicals used loudspeakers to condemn the West and their Saudi accomplices and called for a return to basic Islamic values. They also demanded the banning of Shiites from Mecca’s shrines and the end of women’s higher education, television and soccer.

The 26 gates of the Great Mosque were closed and bolted and the radical were sealed inside. Members of the Saudi army, National Guard, and Ministry of Interior forces surrounded the mosque and sharp shooters were placed in the minarets. Perhaps 50,000 worshipers were trapped inside. The radicals hid in the mosque’s maze of subterranean tunnels. The siege lasted for two weeks and ended only after bloody battles within the mosque itself. Three bullets struck the Kaaba. The minarets were so shot up they had to undergo extensive repairs.

Fires and Construction Tragedies at the Hajj

May 7, 1995 — Three people died and 99 were injured in a fire at the Mina camp.
December 14, 1975 — A huge fire started by an exploding gas canister in a pilgrim camp close to Mecca kills 200 people. [Source: AFP June 23, 2023]

April 15, 1997 — around 350 mostly Asian pilgrims were killed and around 1,500 others were injured when a fire swept through 70,000 tents at a pilgrim’s camp near Mina. , outside Mecca. About 150 of the dead were from India. Others were from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand. The fire was set off by a gas canister used for cooking and was fanned by strong winds. Officials declared it an accident with no terrorist or political links.

Many bodies were charred beyond recognition. One pilgrim said, "Oh my God, it was horrible. People were running everywhere, but they could not get away because everywhere they went they saw fire." The disaster was blamed on overcrowding. Critics said disasters like this could be avoided if there were community kitchens so pilgrims didn’t have to make their own cooking fires. Afterward , pilgrims were given fire-resistant tents and gas canisters were banned. A similar fire in 1995, destroyed many tents but took no lives.

In January 2006, several days before the Hajj began, 76 people were killed and 62 were injured when a hostel near the Grand Mosque in the heart of Mecca, where pilgrims were staying, collapsed. The building housing the Luluat al-Kheor (“Pearl of Grace”) hostel was made of concrete and was six stories high and only 30 years old.

September 2015 — two weeks before the Hajj began and three weeks before hundred were killed in a stampede, more than 100 people were killed and hundreds injured, including many foreigners, when stormy weather toppled a crane onto Mecca's Grand Mosque.

20120509-satan stones AL_Jamarat_30.JPG
Crowds gather to throw Satan stones

Stampedes at the Hajj

More than a 1000 people were killed in the 1990s and 2000s in stampedes or incidents when pilgrims were crushed or pressed to close together. . In 2001, thirty-five people, including 23 women, were crushed to death and more than a 100 were injured in a stampede towards on the pillars at the stoning site. In 2003, 14 were killed in a similar accident The tragedies have been blamed on a “lack or organization” by Saudi authorities during the ritual. One Saudi official told Reuters, “There is a very high number of pilgrims and a lot of pressure.”

July 2, 1990 — 1,426 pilgrims, many of them Malaysians, Indonesians and Pakistanis, were trampled in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to Mecca. The massive stampede was triggered by the failure of a tunnel ventilation system.

May 24, 1994 — 270 people, most of them Indonesians, were killed in a stampede at the stoning site in Mina, with authorities blaming "record numbers" of pilgrims.

April 9, 1998 — More than 118 people are killed and 180 injured in a stampede in Mina. Most were Malaysians and Indonesians, many of them elderly.

February 1, 2004 — 251 people die after a huge stampede at the stoning ceremony.

January 22, 2005 — three pilgrims are crushed to death in a stampede at the stoning ceremony.

January 12, 2006 — Some 364 pilgrims die in a stampede on January 12 during the Mina stoning ritual, in which hajj participants throw pebbles at three headstones to symbolise their rejection of Satan.

September 24, 2015 — A stampede during the "stoning of the devil" ritual in Mina, near Mecca, kills up to 2,300 worshippers in the worst hajj disaster ever.

Stoning of Satan Disaster in 2004

In February 2004, during the stoning ritual, 251 were killed and a similar number were injured in a stampede that caused many people to be pinned against a wall put in place to keep them from falling off a ramp. The disaster occurred after crowds got out of hand as they moved along a wide ramp to the stoning site. A Saudi official said the stampede lasted for 27 minutes and rescue operations by security forces and medical units “resulted in containing the pushing toward the pillar to prevent more pilgrims from falling.”

Some blamed the authorities but many also blamed the pilgrims. An Egyptian pilgrim said the security forces “have done the best they could. What can anyone do to handle such a magnanimous crowd? It is the people’s behavior that needs to be rectified.”

In any case afterwards the site was extensively remodeled to reduce congestion and reduce the chances of a stampedes. The ramps were widened. Wider and taller pillars that resembled walls were erected to make them easier to hit. The circular walls were replaced with oval ones that helped people move through the site better, and two new emergency escapes were added. There were no fatalities in 2005 but there was another disaster in 2006.

20120509-satan stones jamarat_Bridge_24.JPG
Jamarat Bridge

Stoning Disaster in 2006

In January 2006, 363 people died in conditions of severe crowding during the stoning ritual at Jamarat Bridge in Mina when pilgrims carrying belongings and leaving the bridge broke through a security cordon and clashed with pilgrims entering the bridge. Ignoring advice to stagger the ritual throughout the day, most of the victims were among the masses who chose to follow the Prophet’s example and do the stoning after noon prayers. Most were trampled to death. Many carried no documents and were disfigured, making identifying them difficult.

Most of the dead were killed at the entrance to a ramp leading to the columns where the stoning takes place. A Saudi government spokesman said there were groups of security men in the crowd but “often the mass and force is too much and they effectively disappear...We effectively had 600,000 pilgrims trying to leave Mina at the same time. Special forces immediately responded to the incident.”

Survivors described trampling people before falling down and being trampled themselves. The victims were from 23 countries and included 44 Indians, 37 Pakistanis, 28 Saudis and citizens from Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

Describing a video tape of the disaster Hassan M. Fattah wrote in the New York Times, “Shortly after noon, the crowd jerked forward. In a few minutes, one or two people had fallen on bags that were in front of them, and soon people began falling all along the entrance to the ramp. Even as a wave behind them continued to press forward. Voices crackled over the radio, there was shouting and the crowd began to look like a stretched-out coil, jerking back and forth as a stampede gained momentum...An hour and half later, when the scene was finally under control, bodies had piled up in layers up to seven deep and included some of the security guards trying to control the crowd.”

Blame and Response to the Stoning Disaster in 2006

Saudi officials blamed unruly pilgrims for insisting on performing the ritual at noon rather than spreading it out over the afternoon. The Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdylaziz ak-Sheik, accused pilgrims of being disorderly and ignoring huge notice boards, loud loudspeakers and pamphlets on how to perform the rites. Senior officials said many defied the rules by carrying their bags with them and ignoring advice to stagger the ritual through the day. The Saudi Interior Minster told the Saudi state news agency, “It pains me that so many died, but we must point out that the security forces averted many more disasters from happening and saved many lives.”

20120509-satan stones  3.jpg

Many Muslim blamed the Saudi government for not providing adequate security. One Egyptian pilgrim told Reuters, “There seemed to more security forces this year but they were not very organized or had any plan.”

After the 2006 incident the pedestrian platform was demolished and a new four-story structure was built that allows pilgrims to carry out the ritual more safely. Osama al-Bar, an engineer involved with the project, told the New York Times, “One of the biggest problems was this bridge. After 1,500 lives, it’s finally going down. I’d really like to know who thought this structure up.” One floor of the new structure is directed to absorbing the flow of pilgrims from each end of the valley. Once the finish they will all move down together towards the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Stampede at the 2015 Hajj Kills 2,300

In September 2015, during that ritual in Mina a stampede killed roughly 2 300 people who were on their way to throw their stones at the Jamarat Bridge. The stampede occurred at the symbolic stoning of the devil in Mina, about three kilometers miles away from Mecca on the third day of the five-day Hajj. The tragedy occurred outside the five-storey Jamarat bridge, which was erected in previous years at a cost of more than $1.2 billion and intended to improve safety after the 2006 stampede killed 363 during Hajj. Almost a kilometer long, the Jamarat bridge allows 300,000 pilgrims an hour to carry out the ritual, in which they throw pebbles against walls. [Source: Jon Gambrell. Associated Press, October 20, 2015 +++]

site of the 2015 Mina stampede

Many of the dead were Iranian.Jon Gambrell of Associated Press wrote: ““After the hajj stampede, Iranians protested in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran. "The lying and hypercritical bodies, which claim to (be promoting) human rights, as well as the Western governments, which sometimes make great fuss over the death of a single person, remained dead silent in this incident in favor of their allied government," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, according to a transcript on his website. "If they were sincere, these self-proclaimed advocates of human rights should have demanded accountability, compensation, guarantee for non-recurrence and punishment for the perpetrators of this catastrophe." +++

Many of the dead also came from Africa. According to an early coun. Mali said it lost 254 people, while Nigeria lost 199, Cameroon lost 76, Niger lost 72, Senegal lost 61, and Ivory Coast and Benin both lost 52. Others include Egypt with 182, Bangladesh with 137, Indonesia with 126, India with 116, Pakistan with 102, Ethiopia with 47, Chad with 43, Morocco with 36, Algeria with 33, Sudan with 30, Burkina Faso with 22, Tanzania with 20, Somalia with 10, Kenya with eight, Ghana and Turkey with seven, Myanmar and Libya with six, China with four, Afghanistan with two and Jordan and Malaysia with one.” +++

An early AFP tally counted 1,849 people based on data from more than 30 countries. Here is a breakdown of the number of fatalities as supplied by each government: Iran: 464; Egypt: 182; Nigeria: 145; Bangladesh: 137; Indonesia: 129; India: 101; Pakistan: 87; Cameroon: 76; Niger: 72; Senegal: 61; Mali: 60; Chad: 52; Ivory Coast: 52; Benin: 34; Morocco: 36; Ethiopia: 31; Sudan: 30; Algeria: 28; Burkina Faso: 22; Libya: 10; Somalia: 8; Tunisia: 7; Kenya: 6; Ghana: 5; Mauritius: 5; Tanzania: 4; Burundi: 1; Iraq: 1; Jordan: 1; Netherlands: 1; Oman: 1. [Source: Agence France-Presse, October 20, 2015]

After the disaster the stoning ritual was supposed to continue for two more days, but some pilgrims were reluctant to do it, fearful of another stampede. Some put their faith in God, telling AFP he would protect them. “Of course we are afraid of tomorrow,” said Hasan, the Egyptian pilgrim. “I want to go do the stoning at night. I asked a cleric, he said it’s OK.”

Causes and Accounts of the 2015 Hajj Stampede

Holly Yan of CNN wrote: What caused the chaotic stampede? Among the suggested causes: pilgrims rushing to complete the rituals, heat, masses of faithful pushing against each other in opposite directions, even confusion among the many first-timers on the Hajj. A Saudi interior ministry spokesman, General Mansur al-Turki, said the stampede was caused when “a large number of pilgrims were in motion at the same time” at an intersection of two streets in Mina. “The great heat and fatigue of the pilgrims contributed to the large number of victims,” he said. And one Saudi minister blamed the pilgrims for the tragedy, saying they had not followed hajj rules and tried to "go on their own, or try to take a shortcut."

“Hajj pilgrim Ethar El-Katatney, a journalist and blogger, said people were trying to push their way in opposite directions — some headed to the site of the stoning, some coming back from their previous ritual. "As our group started to head back, taking Road 204, another group, coming from Road 206, crossed our way," said another worshipper, Ahmed Muhammad Amer. "Heavy pushing ensued. I'm at a loss of words to describe what happened. This massive pushing is what caused the high number of casualties among the pilgrims." [Source: Holly Yan, CNN, September 26, 2015 ==]

20120509-satan sprawling_Jamarat_bridge.jpg
new sprawling Jamarat bridge, built to avoid future disasters

“After the stampede, it took hours for rescue workers to try to tend to all those trampled. "The ambulances, the sirens were overwhelming," El-Katatney said. "For hours and hours, you could hear them constantly." El-Katatney said the sight of the carnage was simply "horrendous." "It's literally a pile of bodies of people who ... pushed, they shoved, they panicked, they screamed," she said. "It was hot, someone fell, others trampled and they got stampeded." ==

Time pressures may have contributed to the disaster, El-Katatney said. "There's so little time to complete the rituals," she said. Journalist Khaled Al-Maeena said he believes pilgrims rushing to finish could have been the main reason for the stampede. "People like to do the first stoning in the morning," he told CNN from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The journey is physically grueling enough on its own. But with temperatures soaring over 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit), anyone who succumbs to the elements might collapse and never recover, El-Katatney said. "I was out for a couple of hours just kind of taking photos, recording. And just two hours standing in the sun makes you so dizzy and so incredibly faint," she said from Mina. "But regardless, people were still continuing to ... their ritual, where the stampede happened." ==

El-Katatney said she talked to some of the men who were caught in the mayhem. "They told me how if you fell, if you weren't strong enough to withstand the pushing and shoving ... if you fell, you weren't going to get up again." Even though Saudi officials are extremely versed in hosting Hajj crowds, many of the pilgrims are making the journey for the first time and might not be prepared to follow all directions or handle the chaos. "If any mistake happens — if a group makes the wrong turn — that will cause a disaster," Jamal Khashoggi of Saudi Arabia's El Arab TV told CNN. "And that's exactly what happened yesterday." ==

nationalities of the victims of the 2015 Mina stampede

Witnesses Blame Saudi Officials and Police for 2015 Hajj Stampede

Some pilgrims complained that inexperienced police and a lack of organization contributed to the 2015 Hajj Stampede disaster. AFP reported: “The Saudi health minister, Khalid al-Falih, earlier pointed a finger of blame at the dead, saying the pilgrims had been undisciplined and not followed movement instructions, but the witnesses disagreed. “There was crowding. The police had closed all entrances and exits to the pilgrims’ camp, leaving only one,” said Ahmed Abu Bakr, a 45-year-old Libyan who escaped the stampede with his mother. “I saw dead bodies in front of me and injuries and suffocation. We removed the victims with the police.” He added that police at the scene appeared inexperienced. “They don’t even know the roads and the places around here,” he said as others nodded in agreement. [Source: Agence France-Presse, September 25, 2015 ^^^]

“Pilgrims in Mina stay in a complex of white fireproof tents big enough to hold more than 2 million people, and the interior ministry said it deployed 100,000 police to secure the hajj, maintain safety and manage traffic and crowds. One outspoken critic of redevelopment at the holy sites said despite the large numbers, police were not properly trained and lacked the language skills for communicating with foreign pilgrims, who make up the majority of those on the hajj. “They don’t have a clue how to engage with these people,” said Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Mecca-based Islamic heritage research foundation. “There’s no crowd control.” ^^^

“Another witness, 39-year-old Egyptian Muhammad Hasan, voiced worries that a similar incident “could happen again”. “You just find soldiers gathered in one place doing nothing,” he said. He also alleged that he had been insulted because of his nationality, when security men asked him to “come identify this Egyptian corpse”. “Why are they humiliating us like this? We are coming as pilgrims asking for nothing,” Hasan said angrily, urging the security forces to “organise the roads” to ensure the smooth movement of people.” ^^^

“But in the view of an Egyptian worshipper who identified himself only by his first name, Ahmed, “the fault is not on the pilgrims”. “Saudi Arabia is spending a lot on hajj but there is no organisation,” he said, complaining that the flow of people into and out of the tent camp needed to be better managed. “They could make one road for those going and another for those returning,” Ahmed said. “If one policeman would stand at the start of every road and organise the pilgrims, none of this would happen.” ^^^

honoring 2015 Mina stampede victims in Iran

Measures Taken After the 2015 Stampede

On the Hajj in 2016, AFP reported: In stifling heat, trucks loaded with bottled water were stationed throughout, and pilgrims doused themselves. Empty bottles and leftover meals littered the ground as ambulances patrolled.After sunset they will move to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, to gather 49 pebbles for a symbolic stoning of the devil which begins on Monday, in the last major rite of hajj. During that ritual in Mina last year a stampede killed roughly 2 300 people who were on their way to throw their stones at the Jamarat Bridge. [Source: AFP, September 11, 2016]

Authorities announced an investigation into the tragedy but no results have ever been released, although a number of safety measures have been taken. Among these is the distribution of a bracelet which stores pilgrims' personal data. Roads have also been widened in the Jamarat area, newspapers reported. Pilgrims have told AFP they feel safe and noticed organisational improvements.

Helicopters monitored the crowd flow from the skies, while on the ground, police on foot, motorbike, and all-terrain vehicles directed pedestrian movement. At the sacred hill itself, police sometimes had to use their bodies to block the flow of pilgrims and avoid bottlenecks. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, the interior minister and chair of the hajj committee, was in Mina to help supervise "the services being provided to the pilgrims," the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Despite the safety and security measures which Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia says it has taken, Shi'ite Iran has angrily questioned the kingdom's custodianship of Islam's holiest places. Iran last year reported the largest number of stampede victims, at 464, and its 64 000 pilgrims are excluded for the first time in decades after the regional rivals failed to agree on security and logistics. Hundreds of thousands of Iranian faithful held an alternative pilgrimage in the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Karbala, according to an official at the shrine of Imam Hussein. Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it launched a television channel to broadcast the hajj rituals in the Persian language, also known as Farsi, spoken in Iran.

funeral ceremony for 2015 Mina stampede victims in Iran

Image Sources: Al-Jazeera English, Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, Encyclopedia.com, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2024

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