Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Annual Hajj Begins

Muslim pilgrims began arriving in Mecca. Fears of swine flue pandemic force some to wear masks. 25 November 2009. ISNA

The annual Hajj pilgrimage began today in Mecca. Some 2.5 million pilgrims have arrived in the holy city. A rare rainstorm threatened to mar the four-day hajj.

The Iranian pilgrims are expected to stage a protest with chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” The Saudi authorities have banned such protests, but the head of Iran’s delegation said they would stage the protest in the massive pilgrims’ tent city in Mina valley.

UPDATE (26 November): Iranian pilgrims carried out a protest on Thursday ignoring Saudi warnings against political activity inside their camp at Arafat outside Mecca. Some 65,000 Iranian pilgrims are on the hajj this year. Ayatollah Mohammad Rajari, the supreme leader’s representative at hajj pilgrimage, led the Iranian delegation. In his speech he asked all Muslims to focus on important issues of Al Asqa [mosque in Jerusalem], the occupation of Palestine, Iraqi and Afghan occupation and the fighting in Yemen. The crowd chanted political slogans. There was no presence by Saudi security forces during the protest and no report of any incident.


Mark Pyruz said...

I read somewhere that the actual concern was over a potential Iranian protest to the war being waged against the Houthis, but Iran's foreign ministry gave assurances this would not happen.

Unfortunately I can't remember the source.

Nader Uskowi said...

The Yemeni campaign against the Houthis is obviously a major source of tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, each supporting opposing sides in the conflict. Any Iranian protest on Saudi soil could very well be as a result of this building tension. Of course these protests have really become a ritual for Iranian delegation, with hundreds killed during a protest some years ago. The question is if both sides would show some degree of restraints as to not raise the tensions and create unnecessary risk for the pilgrims. I hope so.