Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hajj Stampede Leaves 769 Dead, 934 Injured

Noontime gathering at Namira Mosque, near Mount Arafat - From ABC News

On Thursday September 24, a massive stampede occurred as pilgrims from around the world converged in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to partake in the annual Hajj, during which Muslims gather to perform various rituals as part of their duty to visit the holy city at least once in their lifetime. In the past, several other stampedes have occurred; the deadliest being one in 1990 which resulted in the deaths of 1426 pilgrims. It is speculated from eyewitness reports that two groups of pilgrims crossed paths with each other on the same street; the result being absolute chaos. The temperature, as pilgrims crashed into each other in an enclosed space, was reportedly over 115 degrees Farenheit. As of 11:30 AM, Saudi Health Minister Khalid al-Falih reported that out of pilgrims from 33 countries, 769 were reported dead, 934 injured, and over 1200 missing.

The BBC reported that Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh, the country's highest religious authority, told Supreme Hajj Committee chairman Mohammed bin Nayef that he was "not responsible for what happened." Saudi Minister al-Falih placed the blame on the pilgrims for failing to follow directions.

On the other hand, Iran's Prosecutor General Ebrahim Raisi demanded that Saudi officials be tried in criminal courts for the catastrophe; at least 134 Iranians were killed, while over 300 were missing. Other officials from different nations have placed the fault on Saudi authorities, who reportedly mismanaged the different crowds of pilgrims and sent them directly into each other. 

What should be done, and by whom? Who is to blame? Does this merit Saudi officials being tried in an international criminal court? How could the government have handled the situation differently, and why does this continue to happen despite past occurrences? 





Sources:

NPR

BBC News

Reuters

ABC News - How does a human stampede happen?




1 comment:

Danny Halawi said...

Great blog Elliot :). My Aunt is actually in Saudi Arabia right now performing hajj, and was actually there while the stampede happened. When I asked her what her thoughts of the stampede are, she told me that these stampedes always happen and that they're merely inevitable. Furthermore, after doing some research, I found out that the more people there are in a place, the more likely a stampede is going to happen. Because there are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, there is going to be a large amount of people in Mecca (probably too many people to be safe), raising the likely hood of something like a stampede of happening. This further extends the point of view, that these stampedes are bound to happen every now and then, and they're nobody's fault.
However, if we try to look at the other side, even if there is a lot of people, stampedes can be avoided if crowds are directed properly, supporting the idea that there might have been some Saudi officials who did indeed miss manage the different crowds. Even though this might be true, I believe that it is going to be too difficult to actually prove that certain officials did not do their job adequately, and as a result having trials will be fruitless. Also, not only is it going to be hard to prove it, but also Saudi Arabia as a country does not want to be responsible for the death of many individuals. This is because if Saudi Arabia was to blame, the government would ultimately look sloppy, and people might even start to fear going to hajj.
In my opinion, I don't think anyone should be blamed, but maybe Saudi Arabia should train it's officials again to make sure that they can do their job properly.