Press TV has conducted an interview with Massoud Shadjareh, a member of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London, to discuss the death toll from a deadly crush during Hajj pilgrimage rituals in Mina, outside the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: First of all, as we have just noted that, looking at the death tolls announced by different countries, the figure is much higher than what Saudi Arabia continues to insist upon. Why is it that Saudi Arabia refuses to change that death toll?
Shadjareh: It is really astonishing. From the outset, they have been trying to lower the figures and give ridiculous figures. First of all, the first figure that was given out was 75 and then became a hundred and odd, and there is no way that you confuse the bodies of thousands of people with the bodies of tens of people and this is [obviously] sort of an attempt to belittle the tragedy and trying to exonerate themselves of the incompetence, but what they are doing in reality, they are actually increasing that incompetence.
They are showing us not only they were not able to stop this disaster from taking place but they are also not able to count bodies, and even the figure that eventually they gave seven hundred and odd has been increased tremendously. They themselves have increased the numbers of dead from Iran and from other countries, but they have not added to the total and this really is astonishing, it is mind-boggling. Who would think that anyone in the world will accept this sort of behavior, this sort of incompetence, and this sort of taxing of other people’s intelligence? They really are abusing our intelligence by these sorts of suggestions.
Press TV: Looking at the bigger picture here obviously it is that question of whether Saudi Arabia and Saudi authorities are capable of hosting the Hajj year after year and ensuring the safety of the pilgrims. Wouldn’t you say that the question regarding the custodianship of the two holy sites has been brought into the limelight once again?
Shadjareh: This has happened over and over and now I think there are a number of reasons that this should be addressed seriously. One is the fact of their incapability of ensuring the health and safety of the Hujjaj. The way that they have actually [caged] in the Hujjaj was the real result of the death and the destruction, but also the fact is that they are refusing to respect the guest of Allah. The hujjaj are guest of Allah and they are treating them like dead. They are treating them in a way that really even animals should not be treated.
They do not treat their own guest in that way. Why they are treating the guest of Allah in that way? And that itself is actually, I think, one of the main reasons. We need to have a change. People should be serving the holy places, those who are actually going to do it according to Islamic principles, etiquette and the love for those who come as a life time trip to the call of Allah.