Financial Tribune- Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said protecting security and dignity of pilgrims is central to holding a “majestic” hajj, calling on the Saudi government to keep a watchful eye on the organization of the ritual this year.
“Ensuring the security, dignity, welfare and comfort of all pilgrims, particularly Iranians, is a serious and constant demand of the Islamic Republic,” Ayatollah Khamenei told a gathering of hajj officials in Tehran on Sunday, his official website said.
The meeting came as Iran sent the first group of its pilgrims to Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
The annual pilgrimage is one of the pillars of Islam that Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lifetime.
Over 80,000 Iranians will take part in this year’s ritual, which is expected to begin on August 30.
The Leader said Iran’s call for safeguarding the security of pilgrims is stronger this year, as “the deep ache of the bitter 2015 hajj incidents in the heart of Iranians is unforgettable.”
Ayatollah Khamenei was referring to a stampede during the 2015 hajj in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, which claimed the lives of hundreds of worshippers, including 465 Iranians.
Years of tensions between the two regional powers, intensified by the Mina incident, led to a severance of relations by Saudi Arabia early 2016.
Iranians did not attend the ritual last year, after Saudi officials failed to provide credible assurances about the security of pilgrims.
But last March, the two countries reached agreement on the participation of Iranian pilgrims in this year’s hajj, after Tehran said the other side provided “written assurances” it would meet all of Iranian conditions regarding the security of its pilgrims.
“All ought to be careful and properly fulfill their responsibilities so a majestic hajj be held with dignity,” he said.
The Leader described the pilgrimage as a unique chance to promote spirituality, which has a great social capacity, saying it is a display of “greatness, unity, solidarity and power” of the ummah and its best opportunity for announcing its position on important issues facing the Muslim world.
“One of the issues is the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Beit-ul-Muqaddas,” he said, adding that the Palestine conflict is the foremost priority of the Muslim world and Muslims can ill afford to neglect in supporting the Palestinian cause against the “aggressor and fake” Israeli regime.
The occupied Palestinian territories have recently witnessed a new wave of tensions, after Israeli forces introduced new restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshippers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Leader urged Muslim pilgrims to object in their gatherings to the “evil interference and presence” of the US in Muslim states and its role in spreading terrorism and extremism in Muslim lands.
“More wicked and vicious than all terrorist groups is the US regime itself,” he said.