After the boycott of 2016, tens of thousands of faithful are expected from Iran. Shiite pilgrims against the interference of politics in the region. Because of the tensions between Riyadh and Doha, only a few dozen people from Qatar. Al Qaeda and Isis a "potential threat".
Riyadh (AsiaNews) - In order to ensure the security of Muslims throughout the world who are taking part in the major pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj), the Saudi authorities have allocated over 100,000 members of the security forces.
The massive deployment is in response to the ever-increasing threat of assaults as in this period, even though there have been no specific alerts or threats from jihadist groups so far, not even the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) which targeted the country in the past.
The most important annual gathering of Muslim faithful will bring more than two million people from all over the world to the Saudi nation. This year, unlike the past year, there will be tens of thousands of Iranians who in 2016 could not take part in the Hajj because of the divisions between Tehran and Riyadh.
The crisis was triggered by "a massive stampede" that caused the death of at least 2,300 people, of which 464 were Iranian pilgrims. The event has caused strong tensions between Iran (the most important Shiite Muslim nation in the world) and Saudi Arabia (guardian of Sunni orthodoxy), resulting in the lack of participation - for the first time in 30 years - of the faithful of the Islamic Republic, Hajj.
A long and laborious diplomatic effort between the two nations reopened the doors of Mecca to the Iranians. There are at least 86,000 people who took part in the major pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam. Among them is the 54-year-old Abbas Ali, who is said to be "happy to see so many Iranians here [in Mecca]" and adds that "political issues should not interfere in religious affairs, especially in the Haji." "We should not stop coming here - he concludes - because we are all Muslims."
If the tensions between Tehran and Riyadh, at least in terms of the pilgrimage, seem to have been resolved, the ongoing crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia that began in June has in fact reduced the presence of faithful from Doha. According to the latest information, only a few dozen Qataris have crossed the border to participate in the Hajj, confirming a widening fracture. An official of the Qatar National Committee for Human Rights reports that "last week between 60 and 70 people crossed the border"; A figure far below the 12,000 faithful who, last year, took part in the major pilgrimage.
The Saudi authorities look closely at security issues with targeted intelligence. According to the Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Turki, in the recent past special departments have dismantled several militant cells based in Mecca and Medina. And the defeats suffered by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq have not reduced tension and the security levels, as the "potential threat" of terrorist groups remains strong.
The authorities have placed checkpoints and metal detectors at the airports and the entrance to the holy places of Islam, even though the ministry spokesman himself states that "there have been no specific threats so far." "We are paying the utmost attention [to security and public order] – he concludes - to every possible alert, even if we do not disseminate communicate them to press”.