Saudi launches Farsi-language Hajj TV amid dispute with Iran

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia has launched a Farsi-language satellite television channel broadcasting the hajj as Iranians abstain from the pilgrimage amid a dispute between the two regional rivals.

The Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Adel al-Toraifi tells Saudi media that the channel is also being broadcast by radio to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as via mobile phone applications and the internet.

In remarks published by the official Saudi Press Agency on Sunday, al-Toraifi says the channel “aims to broadcast the message of hajj, the eternal meanings of Islam and what is being provided by the kingdom…. to pilgrims and visitors.”

Iran strongly criticizes Saudi Arabia over its handling of last year’s hajj stampede, which killed at least 2,426 pilgrims, including 464 Iranians, according to an Associated Press count.