Press TV has interviewed Seif Da'na, a professor at University of Wisconsin in Chicago, about the Iranian Judiciary forming a special committee to probe the tragic crush of September 24 in Mina, near the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: First of all, we do know that even the Egyptians have upped their tally of the number of dead from this deadly stampede in Mina. What do you make of the way that Saudi Arabia has been uncooperative in coming forth as far as the death toll goes?
Da'na: Well obviously the Saudis are incompetent and it is really not the matter of incompetence at this point. It is the behavior that follows every incident, a total disregard for the lives and the families of those who died in the hajj.
Since 1975, we had about four or five major incidents like the latest one in Mina and every time hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims die as a consequence of that and we always have the same Saudi account that essentially, literally blames the pilgrims for their death as if they were committing mass suicide and this is [not] acceptable anymore essentially because at this point we have not only counter account, we have witness accounts that contradicted the Saudi official account and essentially that shows total incompetent management of the hajj.
At the same point, the same thing, Muslims all over the world have the right to actually demand not only transparent investigation of the incident but also shared management and shared administration of the hajj because again as I said we are not [only] facing total incompetence in managing the hajj after these years but also the total disregard and the disrespect with which the Saudis have been treating the dead and their families.
Press TV: I would like to pick up on that point, amid calls of this joint management of the hajj rituals every year, Prince Turki al-Faisal has responded saying that the management and administration of the holy cities and of the pilgrims is a privilege and a matter of sovereignty for the Saudi officials and they will not be allowing this to happen. How would you respond to that?
Da'na: I would ask that prince to go back and read the letters of his grandfather Abdulaziz when he first took over Mecca in 1924. The reason he used was essentially that the rulers of Mecca at that time did not allow for shared management which according to him at that time - that is in the records and in the letters – was the proper Islamic thing to do and after 1924 when they took over Mecca, they actually sent letters to almost every other Islamic country including Iran, including Egypt, including the Mufti of Jerusalem at that time and Morocco, assuring them that the reason was nothing other than their quest for a shared administration of the hajj because that is the proper Islamic thing to do. And just one year later, two years later, they started violating the very principle or the very pretext they used to take over Mecca at that time.
But if actually the Saudi royal family and the minister of hajj and the minister of Mecca were actually competent enough and these incidents were not frequent as they are and the victims are not really in hundreds and thousands every other year or so, nobody would actually have talked about this but again we see this happening over and over again.
From 1975 until now, there were five major events, incidents of this sort and we have thousands of victims every time or hundreds in the least and we are confronted with the same story, same account that proves to be false. This time we have witness account, we have video camera - actually the Saudi government did confiscate all the video tapes in the area to prevent counter account to question their narrative.