The Saudi-Iranian relationship has continued sinking into the Persian Gulf after a long string of arguments that escalated to the point of Saudi Arabia severing diplomatic ties with Iran, its longtime neighbor. And even after they broke ties, when officials on both sides tried to make a deal so Iranian citizens could participate in the Hajj, relations broke down to a point where Iranian officials walked out of the talks without coming to a compromise. The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage that Muslims are supposed to make at least once in their lifetime, and forms one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
In other words, it’s very important.
The main sticking point for the two countries comes from a disastrous stampede in 2015 that killed an estimated 2,400 pilgrims who were making their way around the Ka’aba, a cube shaped building that contains a black stone that is said to have fallen from heaven. Because so many people crowd around the building and are attempting to get close to the stone, it can be quite dangerous if someone is spooked or starts to run. Iranians formed the bulk of the deaths at the tragedy, numbering more than 400, and officials became frustrated after they felt Saudi Arabia wasn’t doing enough to protect and ensure the safety of pilgrims to the Ka’aba.
Just 13 days previously, on September 11, 2015, 111 people had died and 394 were injured from a crane collapse on top of a mosque in Saudi Arabia. The crane was owned by the Bin Laden group, a conglomerate started by the father of Osama Bin Laden, and one of the world’s largest construction companies. The Bin Laden family disowned Osama in 1994 and his passport was revoked years before the 9/11 terror attacks.
Adding to the animosity that came from these two disasters is the constant distrust between the two countries that is such a big subject that I honestly don’t have time to go into in this article, so if you want to read more about it, check out the Wikipedia page here.
But recently, a popular cleric by the name of Nimr al-Nimr was executed in Saudi Arabia, which also caused a huge rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
But anyways, now that all that HUGE AMOUNT OF EXPOSITION is out of the way, we can move on to how the relations are somehow getting worse, even though the two countries don’t have any diplomatic relations.
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Saudi authorities of ‘murdering’ some of the people from the stampede. He then encouraged the Muslim world to unite against the Saudi government.
“The world of Islam, including Muslim governments and peoples, must familiarize themselves with the Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless, dependent and materialistic nature,” A statement on Khamenei’s website said.
In response, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, one of the top clerics of Saudi Arabia, accused the Iranian leaders of not being true Muslims.
“We have to understand that they [Iran’s leaders] are not Muslims,” he told the Makkah Daily.
He instead insisted that they were Zoroastrians, an ancient Persian religion that few follow anymore.
“Their hostility towards Muslims is ancient,” al-Sheikh said.
Afterwards, the foreign minister of Iran, Javad Zarif, then got in on the denigrate-the-other-guy’s-religious-sect party.
Yeah, so it doesn’t look like Iranians will get to join in on the Hajj this year.