Abu Fadel al-Shaush is Hajj pilgrim from Rima, Yemen. His hometown is now under Saudi-led Arab coalition fire for over seventeen months. A week later he has to travel back home to a country where “you don’t know if you will arrive safely.”
To be able to get to Mecca, the 43-year-old Shaush had to travel to the only border crossing still open between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, ie. Wadia. The city is under regular airstrikes.
Saudi Arabia began its war on Yemen in March 2015 while every UN agency warned that it will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. It’s hard to estimate the exact numbers of dead and wounded but according to the UN estimate, at least 5,295 civilians had been killed and 8,873 wounded.
During the UN Human Rights Council meeting when the Netherlands called for an official investigation of the bombing in Yemen, the US-backed Saudi Arabia preempted the Dutch resolution. By proposing to offer technical assistance to the Yemeni government they support, Saudis block any investigation of their atrocities in Yemen. The US and other western powers are selling arms to Saudi Arabia during the disastrous war, and this is why there’s no UN mission to Yemen.
While Yemen was literally burning in the flames of cruel war, two tragic incidents happened in the 2015 Hajj in Mina, Saudi Arabia. In the first incident, a crane fell into the Masjid al-Haram, killing over a hundred people. The mina incident happened when two columns of Hajj pilgrims ran into each other because the police blocked off key roads. At least a thousand pilgrims got choked and died in the ensuing stampede.
The question remaining is that why were these roads blocked by the police? The answer to the question can be summarized in one sentence: The sacred city of Mecca is geared toward the wealthy. The Saudi royal family, which is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, had closed the roads to facilitate VIP pilgrims. In fact, So much of the city is designed for the VIP and the VVIP. It seems that The Custodian always favours the rich and powerful.
The other important question to be considered is that Are these deaths a natural facet of massive pilgrimages or are they indications of systematic disdain for the lives of ordinary people? To find an answer, we must go back to the year 1990, when almost 1500 people were killed in a stampede near the very spot of this tragedy. From that year on, the deaths came in a punctual fashion – 1994, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006.
The unelected royals of the Saudi family are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their futile war on Yemen while There is no political endgame and no sign of any military breakthrough. The only result of this war is the loss of lives and widespread famine in an already poor country. It is probably better for the oil-rich country to spend its money and wealth on making the Hajj as safe as possible instead of wasting it in a futile and never-ending war.