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Report: The real reasons behind hundreds of deaths during this year’s Hajj season

The Hajj season of this year has come to an end, with hundreds of pilgrims losing their lives. More than a 1,000  people are said to have died, and reports and witness statements indicate that the high temperatures—above 51 degrees Celsius (123 Fahrenheit)—were the primary cause of these fatalities.

An Arab diplomat was quoted by the French news agency as stating that 658 Egyptians had died, while Indonesia reported more than 200 deaths among its citizens, India reported 98 deaths, and Pakistan, Malaysia, Jordan, Iran, Senegal, Sudan, and the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region confirmed deaths as well. The Wall Street Journal also revealed that the US thought several Americans had passed away.

Many pilgrims are still missing today. Their friends and family are attempting to learn anything about their fate by posting on social media and looking through hospital records. Not everyone has heard the fate of their loved ones yet, especially since many of the deaths happened on the sides of the road and were not treated.

A study and examination of the true causes of hundreds of pilgrim deaths during a period when Saudi authorities claim to have met all requirements for pilgrim accommodations and supplies led to the conclusion that irregular Hajj was the most common cause. How exactly?

Due to their financial and living circumstances, many pilgrims are unable to afford the high costs of the Hajj. As a result, they often attempt to perform the Hajj without a permit, which entails entering Saudi Arabia on various visas prior to the Hajj, waiting until the start of the pilgrimage season, and then trying to enter the sacred sites covertly. However, under the guise of breaking the law, the Saudi authorities severely restrict the movement of these so-called prospective pilgrims and deny them access to all facilities and services.

Hajj without a permit is obviously prohibited, but the law must be followed in all aspects of its handling. The authorities’ decision to abandon these pilgrims to perish in harsh conditions is totally intolerable, solely because they lacked permits. Although the state could have prevented them from entering the holy sites, buses are assigned to take them outside the city or to a specific location away from the intense heat, where they will at the very least receive “water and first aid.”

The penalty for not having a permit to perform the Hajj must be proportionate to the transgression committed by these pilgrims, which is to be denied the opportunity to perform the Hajj rather than being threatened with death!

The Jordanian government announced in a statement on Friday that it had detained several travel brokers who helped Muslim pilgrims to Mecca travel without permission. Egypt is likewise carrying out a comparable probe. Later on Friday, 49 Tunisians were reported to have died; a statement claimed that the majority of the deceased were unregistered pilgrims. This led to the dismissal of the Minister of Religious Affairs by Tunisian President Kais Saied.

However, the Saudi authorities will not admit that they had anything to do with these pilgrims’ deaths. They merely claim to have eliminated irregular Hajj and to have fully prepared the locations to receive the pilgrims; however, they have not revealed how they conducted this “combat.” They do not want to acknowledge that they denied them access to Arafat, prevented them from using any facilities, and left them to perish from hunger, thirst, and intense heat as they awaited the conclusion of the Hajj rituals.

According to AFP, over half of the fatalities were unregistered pilgrims who entered the Hajj through unapproved routes, preventing them from using air-conditioned buses and tents, which provide cooling amenities.

Overcrowding and poor sanitation contributed to these deaths, in addition to the intense heat that even regular pilgrims experienced and some of whom perished from as a result of the Saudi authorities’ incapacity to address the issue of global warming.

Numerous accounts suggest that the harsh conditions were made worse by the Saudi authorities’ mishandling, which resulted in a crisis in many areas reserved for pilgrims. Some claim that the lodging and amenities were badly run, with overstuffed tents devoid of sufficient coolers and sanitary facilities. Most of the time, water was not supplied to the ones that were installed.

Others said, “Many pilgrims were suffocating from the close quarters of the tents… It was a horrible experience, and we were always perspiring. The cramping and intense heat inside the tents caused many people to pass out.”

Another issue was transportation. Many regular pilgrim delegations claimed that poor management and roadblocks forced them to walk long distances in extremely hot weather.

One of the campaign organizers testified, “During the summer, the average pilgrim may have to walk at least 15 kilometres a day which exposes them to fatigue, sunstroke, and lack of available water.” Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities refuse to work with us and provide the necessary buses.

“These roads were open in the past to access the tents, but they are now all closed. Thus, even if a pilgrim stays in a category A tent in the first zone, he still has to walk 2.5 kilometers in the sweltering summer heat to get to his tent. In the event of an emergency on this road, you will not be contacted for thirty minutes. Along these paths, there are neither water sources nor life-saving provisions.”

Despite all the claims and declarations of “luxurious” services available to receive pilgrims, the Saudi authorities continue to come under heavy fire for their incompetent management and planning, and this year’s Hajj exposed the most repulsive aspect of these organizing committees to date. They did not have the required authorization, so they left people to perish from starvation, thirst, and heat as retaliation. This catastrophe needs to be stopped, and an international investigation into this crime needs to be launched!

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