Saudi Arabia unveils safety measures for 2016 hajj

Hudu Yakubu, Makkah

Saudi Arabia initiated new steps for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca that begins today by moving to Mina to avoid last year’s disaster when hundreds of worshipers were crushed to death.

Officials will issue e-bracelets that contain personal and medical information on each worshiper and have GPS devices to help navigate the event that draws millions of Muslims from around the world each year.

A thousand new security cameras have been installed to monitor crowds, and help desks will be set up to assist people.

The actions come as Iranian pilgrims refused to take part in this year’s ritual after more than 400 Iranians were killed in last year’s stampede in Mina, outside of Mecca — the largest death toll of any country.

Information from the Saudi authority has earlier revealed that, 769 people were killed in the crush but the cause is still under investigation, and Saudi Arabia has yet to release any findings on why it happened.

The hajj pilgrimage to Mecca is a requirement for all Muslims who are physically fit and financially able to complete at least once in their lives.


Meanwhile, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) has commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve hajj conditions.

In a statement, the ISESCO said, the great efforts, huge projects and large-scale preparations carried out by Saudi Arabia serve the pilgrims and secure the best conditions of comfort and security for them to perform the hajj ritual.

It also underscored the member states’ respect for Saudi Arabia and their appreciation of its care of the two holy mosques, pilgrims and umrah performers from all over the world.

The Islamic organ also deemed the Iranian government’s decision not to send pilgrims this year as “insisting on imposing unacceptable conditions, which testify to their determination, as in previous hajj seasons, to politicize the hajj and make confusion among the pilgrims.”

The ISESCO also expressed astonishment at “the persistence of Iranian officials to breach the hajj regulations observed by all the countries of the Islamic world.”