Iranians Protest Against Saudi Arabia Before Hajj Pilgrimage
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