Turkey's Erdogan Defends Saudi Handling Of Hajj, Dismissing Iran's Blame Game
26 September 2015
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to Saudi Arabia's defense on Friday amid
a blame game after a stampede at the Haj pilgrimage killed more than 700
''I do not sympathize with the hostile
statements against Saudi Arabia,'' Erdogan told journalists.
The Turkish leader said that it would be wrong to ''point a finger at Saudi
Arabia which does its best'' to make the annual Haj pilgrimage possible.
''You have to see the glass as half full,'' he said, adding that each country
The holy pilgrimage has been
particularly deadly this year. On September 11, a crane fell at Makkah's
Grand Mosque, killing 109 people.
Then on Thursday at
least 717 people were killed, and several hundred more injured in the worst
tragedy to strike the annual Muslim pilgrimage in a quarter-century.
Earlier Friday, a leader from Turkey's ruling party said Turkey could better
organize the Haj if it had the opportunity.
Turkey was charged with organizing the Haj, we would make sure that nobody
suffered any harm,'' Mehmet Ali Sahin, vice president of the country's ruling
Justice and Development Party (AKP), told Dogan news agency.
Iranian leaders have been deeply critical of the Saudi authorities over what
they charge were flawed safety measures that led to Thursday's tragedy.
Saudi Arabia had actually been spending billions of dollars to expand the
Grand Mosque in Makkah and the pilgrimage areas to accommodate the growing
number of pilgrims and to make it easier and more convenient for them to
Security officials and eyewitnesses have
been reported saying the stampede happened because one set of pilgrims who
have already completed the "stoning the devil" ritual at the Jamarat pushed
their way through a gate designated as an entrance, instead of exiting
through the proper gate.
Other Muslims say pilgrims
should be educated in their countries about security consciousness and proper
decorum in performing Haj before they set forth for the "journey of a
Saudi minister: Pilgrims may
have ignored instructions
Saudi Arabia's health minister said a crush that killed more than 700 people
at the Hajj pilgrimage may have been caused by pilgrims failing to follow
instructions from authorities.
In a statement posted on the ministry's website on Friday, the minister,
Khalid al-Falih, said an investigation would be conducted rapidly into the
worst disaster to strike the annual Hajj pilgrimage for 25 years.
At least 863 others were injured during the stampede at the Hajj, the world's
largest annual gathering of people.
"The investigations into the incident of the stampede that took place today
in Mina, which was perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following
instructions by the relevant authorities, will be fast and will be announced
as has happened in other incidents," the statement said.
Falih said the injured were being transferred to hospitals in Mecca and if
necessary on to other parts of the country.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud said he had ordered a review of the
Hajj plans after the disaster, in which two large groups of pilgrims collided
with each other at a crossroad in Mina, a few kilometres east of Mecca, on
their way to performing the "stoning of the devil" ritual at Jamarat.
The findings of the investigation will be submitted to King Salman, "who will
take appropriate measures" in response, the Saudi Press agency said.
Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said the crush of pilgrims appeared to have
been caused by two waves of pilgrims meeting at an intersection.
Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki said high temperatures and
fatigue may also have been factors in the disaster.