Saudi Officials Obstructed Access: Indonesia

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JAKARTA: Indonesia criticized Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for its slow response to the haj pilgrimage disaster in Mina, saying its diplomats only received full access to the dead and injured days after the crush. 

The criticism from Indonesia, the Muslim world’s most populous country, comes as its officials, as well as those in India and Pakistan, say that Saudi officials gave foreign diplomats some 1,100 pictures of those killed in last week’s disaster. 

On Tuesday, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, an official in Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, said Saudi Arabia prevented Indonesian diplomats for days after the crush in Mina from either identifying or offering medical assistance to those nationals from the South Asian country who were killed or injured in the tragedy.

Saudi officials gave full access to the victims no sooner than Monday night, September 28.

The human crush happened on September 24, when two large crowds of pilgrims were directed to move toward each other from opposite directions in Mina. Reports indicate that Saudi authorities had blocked a road to Jamarat, forcing another column of pilgrims who had completed the ritual to return via the same route.

The Indonesian official said at least 46 pilgrims from Indonesia died in the crush, adding that 10 were injured and 90 others remain missing.

 ‘Incompetent’ in dealing with disaster

The outcry in Indonesia comes as officials in Iran criticized the Al Saud regime for it “incompetence” to handle the hajj pilgrimage rituals.

During his Monday speech at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said, “Thousands of Muslim pilgrims” lost their lives in the Mina disaster due to Saudi authorities’ “incompetence and mismanagement.”

Another top Iranian official described the deadly crush “suspicious.”

“This incident and its circumstances are suspicious because some of our senior officials have been killed or gone missing in this incident,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said on Tuesday.

He added that Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani, should call on Muslim states to investigate the catastrophic Mina incident and work out strategies to guarantee the safety of pilgrims during the Hajj rituals.

“If Saudi Arabia is unable to fulfill its duties with regard to protecting the Hajj pilgrims, Muslim countries should move to carry out their duties in this regard,” Velayati said.

Islamabad urged to react

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Supreme Court said it had received a citizen’s petition asking it to open an investigation into the Mina catastrophe.

Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Ministry said at least 44 Pakistani pilgrims died in the deadly incident and 35 sustained injuries.

Saudi authorities have said that the disaster began when two large waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road last Thursday during the final days of the annual haj in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. 

Survivors say the crowding caused people to suffocate and eventually trample one another in the worst disaster to befall the annual pilgrimage in a quarter-century. 

 

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