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Millions Do Hajj Despite Bloody History

From the "reporters" at the BBC:


Muslim pilgrims gather for Hajj

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Millions of Muslims are gathering in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage which begins on Thursday amid enhanced security.

The authorities have implemented new safety and security measures which they say will prevent stampedes that have killed hundreds of people previously.

In January 2006, almost 400 people were killed and some 300 injured in a stampede during one of the rituals.

Between two and three million pilgrims are expected to take part this year.

The Hajj is one of the five basic duties of Islam to be carried out at least once in lifetime and an obligation for all Muslims who are able to undertake the pilgrimage.

But strict quotas are imposed in most countries to keep numbers to a relatively manageable level.

The Hajj gets under way when all the pilgrims leave Mecca in a massive convoy to make their way to nearby Mina. It is due to end on Monday.

Since the stampede in the last Hajj earlier this year, a major rebuilding project has been undertaken and 50,000 security personnel have been mobilised.

In January, at least 345 pilgrims died in a crush during the stone-throwing ritual of the pilgrimage.

The stampede took place at the foot of the bridge of Jamaraat, where pilgrims hurl stones at three pillars representing the spot where the devil is said to have appeared to Abraham, and which creates a dangerous bottleneck,

The ritual has seen many lethal stampedes, but the number of dead in January was the highest in 16 years.

After a crush in 2004, barriers and stewards were added to improve safety.

The article also has a link to another informative piece:


Deadly history of the Hajj

The deadly stampede of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia on Thursday is the latest in a series of similar accidents at the Hajj in recent years.

Here are some of the worst disasters:

2004: 251 pilgrims are trampled to death in a 27-minute stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina. Saudi officials said many of the victims had not been authorised to participate in the ceremony, after new procedures were introduced following previous stampedes.

2003: 14 people are crushed to death when pilgrims returning from the stoning ritual run into pilgrims coming the other way.

2001: 35 pilgrims are killed when a huge crowd surges towards one of the three giant pillars representing the devil.

1998: 118 pilgrims are trampled to death after panic erupts when several people fall off an overpass during the stoning.

1997: At least 340 pilgrims are killed and 1,500 injured when fire fuelled by high winds sweeps through a tent city in Mina.

1994: 270 pilgrims die in a stampede during the stoning ritual.

1990: 1,426 pilgrims, mainly Asian, die in a stampede in an overcrowded tunnel leading to holy sites.

1987: 402 people, including 275 Iranians (according to Saudi figures), die when security forces break up an anti-US demonstration by Iranian pilgrims.

Note that the oft-reported improvements made in 2004 did not prevent the deaths of 345 pilgrims in 2006. Where is the outrage?

These articles also play-down the centuries-old conflicts between the Shiite pilgrims of Iran and those from Sunni Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

These differences, rather than the anti-US demonstrations, are what led to the 1987 riots. But the BBC doesn’t want us to know that.

Indeed there is a good article on the background of the fights over Mecca between the Iranians and Saudis here.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, December 27th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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