Friday, May 8, 2015

Insight of the 1987 Attack on Makkah by Irani Pilgrims

For many years, Iranian pilgrims tried to stage demonstrations which were called ‘distancing ourselves from the Mushrikin’ in Makkah during the time of Hajj. These demonstrations began in 1971 when Shia followers of Ruhollah Khomeini, upon his instructions, started the distribution of political messages in the middle of their pilgrimage. Although some Iranian pilgrims were arrested for doing so, the Saudis usually took no further action as they thought that these messages were not a threat to them. The political messages usually consisted of criticism towards Israel and the United States, as well as any other pro-western government. This continued until 1981.

It was the 31st of July 1987, a Friday during the Hajj period which is considered extremely important. Iranian pilgrims started their campaign in the middle of extremely heightened security; this is because the Saudi Government believed explosives had been smuggled into the country by Iranians. The march was quite uneventful almost the complete route, however things changed when they approached the final part of their designated tour. As the demonstrators reached the end of their route they found their route blocked by Saudi National Guard and Riot Police. This antagonized the demonstrators and they tried to move forward. While this was going on some unidentified individuals started throwing bricks and stones to the Saudi Security Forces.

This ultimately escalated the situation, which turned into extremely brutal clashes between Saudi security and Iranian pilgrims. The Iranians were said to be armed with knives and clubs, while the Saudi forces had electric prods and batons. There were certain reports claiming that Saudi Police had also shot at the demonstrators, something which the Saudi Officials denied. The commotion and the rioting cause a total of 402 deaths which included 85 Saudi security forces personnel, 42 pilgrims of other nations and 275 Iranians. This also resulted in 649 injuries too.

As a result of this action on 1st August 1987 enraged Iranians took to the streets and held demonstrations which ultimately lead to attacks on the Kuwaiti and Saudi embassies in Tehran. On the same day the Iranian Religious Leader Khomeini called on the Saudis to topple the House of Saud and avenge the Iranian pilgrims. Prince Bandar bin Sultan who is the Saudi Ambassador, stated in a news conference in Washington that not one bullet was fired and blamed all the violence on the Iranian demonstrators who he said had taken out knives, broken glass and clubs from under their clothes.

Iran and Saudi Arabia finally renewed their diplomatic relations in 1991, after coming on terms to allow Iranian pilgrims to again perform Hajj. The number of permitted Pilgrims was set at 115,000. The demonstrations were also allowed to be continued but in restricted and specific locations only. Through this new agreement Iranian pilgrims continued their pilgrimage and their demonstrations in the 90s and 2000s with a handful of minor incidents. Diplomatic relations have been cut down in the beginning of the year 2016 as a result of attack by Iran on Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Recommended: Who was Nimr Al-Nimr? 8 Crimes that led to his execution


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