Ira­ni­ans Protest Against Saudi Ara­bia Be­fore Hajj Pil­grim­age

Fiji Sun - - World News - Jy­otip@fi­

Thou­sands of Ira­ni­ans have marched through the streets to protest against Saudi Ara­bia be­fore the hajj, a sign of soured re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries af­ter last year’s crush and stam­pede dur­ing the an­nual pil­grim­age.

Ira­ni­ans will not be tak­ing part in this year’s hajj, re­quired of all able-bod­ied Mus­lims once in their life, over ten­sions be­tween Sunni Saudi Ara­bia and Shia Iran, re­gional ri­vals di­vided over a host of is­sues. Demon­stra­tors waved signs af­ter Fri­day prayers de­pict­ing the Saudi King Sal­man hold­ing a bloody sword, his head wrapped in an Amer­i­can flag and his shirt bear­ing a blue Star of David sim­i­lar to that on the Is­raeli flag.

“Death to Al Saud and the traitors,” pro­test­ers in Tehran shouted. State me­dia re­ported sim­i­lar protests across the coun­try. “We don’t have any prob­lems with the peo­ple of Saudi Ara­bia. They are Sun­nis and are our brothers,” the pro­tester Habibul­lah Abul­fa­zli said. “But the Al Saud fam­ily are pup­pets of Bri­tain and Amer­ica. They are fight­ing proxy wars against Shias and against all Mus­lims.” Ten­sions soared in Jan­uary af­ter the king­dom ex­e­cuted a prom­i­nent Saudi Shia cleric. An­gry demon­stra­tors later at­tacked two Saudi diplo­matic posts in Iran and Saudi Ara­bia cut diplo­matic ties with the coun­try. The two coun­tries also sup­port op­pos­ing sides in the civil wars in Syria and Ye­men.

In their re­cent crit­i­cisms, Ira­nian of­fi­cials have fo­cused on the stam­pede and crush of pil­grims on Septem­ber 24 last year that killed at least 2426 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press count. Tehran has said the dis­as­ter killed 464 Ira­ni­ans.

The of­fi­cial Saudi toll of 769 peo­ple killed and 934 in­jured has not changed since Septem­ber 26. The king­dom has never ad­dressed the dis­crep­ancy, nor has it re­leased any re­sults of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion au­thor­i­ties promised to con­duct into the dis­as­ter. The Guardian

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