WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2015 – More than 1,200 innocent pilgrims died last Thursday in a stampede at Mina, outside Mecca.
According to Saudi activists, only after 12 hours of the crises, the king ordered the beheading of 28 people.
The identities of the individuals are not yet known.
It is not clear whether the individuals facing beheading have any relationship to the Mina disaster. It is also unclear whether the beheadings came after a court ruling or the King unilaterally ordered the punishment.
Saudi activists believe the king is beheading criminals who are already imprisoned but using the punishments as a publicity campaign to quell criticism of the way Saudi Arabia is managing Hajj.
However, there are some concerns that the individuals may not have faced a legitimate trial. “No one should be punished without enough evidence and court ruling and the right to defend themselves,” says Muhammad Zakery CEO of the FreeMuslim association that leads Islamic Non-violence NGO in Washington D.C. “Human life has no value in Saudi Arabia,” he says.
Every year, many pilgrims lose their lives, catch various diseases, receive poor services and lack food during Hajj, while Saudi makes more than $9 billion from the event.
This is not the first time pilgrims have died under the supervision of the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the king of Saud.
In 2006, 364 pilgrims died in a crush at foot of Jamarat Bridge in Mina.
In 1997, 340 pilgrims were killed when fire fueled by high winds swept through Mina’s tent city.
In 1994, 270 pilgrims died in a stampede during the stoning ritual.
In 1990, 1,426 pilgrims, mainly Asian, died in a stampede in an overcrowded tunnel leading to holy sites.
In 1987, 402 people died when security forces broke up an anti-U.S. demonstration by Iranian pilgrims.
Just a few weeks before the stampede, more than 100 pilgrims died when a crane collapsed in Mecca. And now, more than 1,200 have died in the stampede.
The stampede happened on the Edi of al-Adha, when pilgrims finish their rituals and return to Mecca for the remaining prayers. Witnesses say that Saudi authorities closed one of the exit gates without prior notice and therefore the crowd built up. Officials then abruptly opened another gate, causing a stampede that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 and hundreds of injuries.
AdDyar الديار news agency stated that, although the Saudi authorities are trying to deny the news of an official convoy, the crown prince was the direct cause for this massacre. He reportedly came to Mina with more than 200 members of the military and 150 police. As a result, guards had to close the gate so he could pass.
After the opening of another gate, Saudi forces could not manage the crowd. Many of those who were injured died while waiting for rescue crews to arrive.
During last three decades, Saudi authorities have clearly proved their inability to manage the holy pilgrimage.
This year, Saudi cut back 50 percent of Saudi and 20 percent of international pilgrims: only 2.5 million people are performing Hajj this year. Despite the reduced number, Saudi Arabia failed to prepare adequate safety provisions.
The circumstances surrounding the beheading of 28 people remains mystery. Media have not yet broken the story, but activists are reporting the news on social media. The king and the crown should be held responsible for causing the deaths of thousands of people. However, the king must fairly investigate the problem, and all must be treated equally in court before he orders beheadings.