Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Hajj ceremony provides the best platform for countering “propaganda” being waged against Iran.
During a meeting with Iranian officials in charge of the 2017 Hajj in Tehran on Tuesday, Khamenei described the Saudis as “impudent and indecent” for publicly speaking against Iran during the recent Hajj ceremony. “Certainly, such statements would create doubt among ordinary people. However, you should remove those doubts by establishing contact with people.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader added, Iran was facing a “very dangerous and active front, equipped with all sorts of propaganda tools” and Hajj was the best platform to establish contact with the people of the world and neutralize the other side’s propaganda.
He also pointed to the limitations Riyadh had put on some events organized by Iranians on the sidelines of the Hajj and called them “Saudi intrigue against the Islamic Republic”.
One such event is called “disavowal of infidels” where pilgrims rally against western countries, particularly Israel and United States.
In 1987, one such rally led to clashes between participants and Saudi security forces in which more than 400 pilgrims, mostly Iranians, were killed.
Following that incident, Iran boycotted Hajj for three years.
“The era of political hajj is over”, Hossein Alizadeh, a former Iranian diplomat said in an interview with Radio Farda. “Not holding events such as ‘disavowal of infidels’ has been one of the conditions that Saudis had set for Iran in advance and Iran had agreed to them,” Alizadeh added.
“It is surprising that Ayatollah Khamenei is complaining about the restrictions imposed by Saudis after giving the green light for it.”
Another deadly incident happened during 2015 Hajj when 460 Iranians lost their lives in a stampede. Iran accused Saudi Arabia of “murdering” the pilgrims and did not send its pilgrims to 2016 Hajj ceremony.
Iran and Saudi Arabia’s relations are experiencing a turbulent time. Riyadh cut off diplomatic relations with Iran after its embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad were attacked and heavily damaged during protests against Saudi Arabia’s execution of Nimr Al Nimr, a Shiite cleric convicted of terrorism, in January 2016.
Both countries are also involved in proxy wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.