Dead End 204

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Eyewitness accounts of the deadly stampede in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage which left thousands dead and many more injured.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Still on screen: Do you regard the providing of water to hajj pilgrims and the maintenance of the Holy Mosque as similar [in worth] to someone who has faith in Allah and [believes in] the Last Day and wages jihad in the way of Allah? They are not equal in the sight of Allah, and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot.

Everywhere around the world, streets are given names or numbers.

In Mina, Saudi Arabia, the streets have been given numbers.

This is a documentary about a bitter event that happened in one of Mina’s streets.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Interviewer: “How are you?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “Fine, but what does it means under such circumstances? Well, I’m alive, thank God. I’m alive right now but what about Hamidreza Husseini? He’s still missing. Why? Why should such a thing happen in that crowd? I lost him in that crowd for just two minutes.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Interviewer: “Isn’t this street familiar to you?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “This Street is the same street that we arrived at early in the morning coming back from Muzdalifah. As we put down our stuffs, we decided to attend the Stoning of the Devil because it was getting late and then we would come back and prepare the report and send it to Tehran. The footage we had taken from Muzdalifah to Mina … We had come to film the ceremony. We thought that we would go to the Stoning of the Devil ritual and come back soon to prepare the report.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “What a terrifying street it was! That day, we never thought we would have a problem with that street. Honestly, the street was crammed with people. We had run out of oxygen. We didn’t have a chance to look at people around us and save them. For a moment, I realized that I was running out of oxygen and about to collapse. I couldn’t ask anybody to help me. The only thing I did was to keep saying “Hey! Hey!” in a pathetic voice. There are usually emergency ways which are in fact very narrow alleys for those who feel sick or need water on the way to the Jamarat. Even those alleys were also closed. They had closed all the emergency ways out of fear so as to steer clear of the crush. Anyway, he dragged me into one of this emergency alleys and I got unconscious. When I came around, I noticed that around me was full of bodies, bodies in such a deplorable condition that I cannot describe right now. My nerves are in tatters.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “The pathway we are walking in … under the bridge there are some staircases … from there we move towards the main path that goes to the Jamarat. As soon as we descended the staircase, we realized that the police had closed the path on the left and were guiding all the pilgrims to the main path that we’re going to see together.

We entered that street, which is the main route and leads straight to Jamarat. We moved to the middle of the street. Then one of the colleagues said that the situation was not normal. We saw the pilgrims climbing the railings on both sides of the street to reach themselves on top of the tents. The situation had spiraled out of control because people were coming from behind and we were forced to go ahead. Then, we realized that 100 meters ahead, there was a barrier blocking the way. The road had been blocked and no pilgrim could continue their path.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim:“Hajji, if anyone of you can get up, pull yourselves out gradually … this way, its close. If you can, help them pull themselves out.

-They may fall on each other.

-We have no options.

-They must first carry those alive and then the dead.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “As we passed by here, they didn’t usher us into that street but into a narrow place. They guided that huge number of people through the staircase and into a tunnel and then into a street the size of this street between the tents.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Interviewer: “You mean there was no other way and you had to go only that way?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “No, they directed us that way, we had no choice.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “There was such a crush there. At the front, there was no way open for the crowd to exit and people kept coming from behind. Some people, especially pilgrims from African countries, climbed up the railings to the top of the tents. When climbing, the tents would tear and they would fall down on a crowd standing here. Again, a large number would fall on each other as a result.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “There was a railing three meters in width and five meters in length had fallen on a crowd. The crowd had been crushed under the railing one meter height.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “What shall I tell you about the scenes? People would step on our heads just to get themselves to the top of the tents. The dead bodies were falling on us all the time. We were screaming. They just looked at us. No one came to at least pull out those still alive. I looked all around myself. Not a single person came to help us. They just threw bottled water among the crowd but we couldn’t get any.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “There I lost my wife and I fell down myself. Then a soldier or someone else took my hand and pulled me out there. I had been unconscious. When I came around, I found myself at hospital. I couldn’t find my wife. She’s still missing after two days.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “We went to do the first part of the ritual. God knows how many people died. The dead had fallen and piled on top of one another. Iranians, Africans, from all over the world.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Interviewer: “Are you OK?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “No, I’m not.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Interviewer: “How did you get out?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “With great difficulty. People helped me out. Foreigners, Africans. Give me some water. I don’t feel well.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “What could the Saudi police do with one ambulance? Didn’t they have enough forces? Why didn’t they dispatch them here and there? They were just sauntering down the road. I don’t know the rest whether they were from the Red Crescent or not. They had red vests on. I begged them but they didn’t even look at me.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “Hoping that the doors would be opened, some rushed towards the doors and those who were inside closed the doors out of fear. Some were climbing up. An African man climbed up and then threw his Ihram towel to pull his wife up. The towel tore apart and his wife fell on the crowd. Other Africans stepped on this woman’s head to climb up. The woman was buried among the crowd. The man was moaning and crying.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “I was tired out but I could hear that they asking me, “Where he is from?” I was not able to talk but unfortunately I saw some Iranians passed away in front of me. The soldiers told each other, “If he’s Iranian, let him die.” They were talking in Arabic but I heard.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “We had been fallen on the ground for about three hours and crying for help. After one hour, a couple of Saudi officers climbed up the roof and began to film those dying. The crowd was asking water. But the guy was just filming remaining undisturbed.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Interviewer: “Hajji, are you better? Hajja? Cover his head with something wet.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “I was buried under bodies. Only my head and one of my hands could be seen. I kept waving my hand for help. The police and the rescue team were a little farther away. We could see them but they didn’t look at us. Finally, after some five hours they came. Many were alive at first but since no one came to help they died. I asked for help and grabbed the trousers of a gut passing by. I told him to save me. But he said he hadn’t had lunch! He was concerned about his lunch!”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Interviewer: “Was he an Iranian?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “No, I don’t know where they were from. I understood them by their gestures.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “There was no help at all. All had died. I screamed. I asked my husband to hang on in there even if trampled underfoot. I told him that the officers were coming so there was a glimmer of hope. I asked him to hang on in there. Then they came to pull out a dead body but Standing on his body.

The Arabs, they were pulling out the dead body but standing on his body. I thought he died. Again, I called him and said, “Hajji, are you alive? Hang on in there. The officers have come. Maybe they help us.”

I was sure that we would die. I was worried about our children. There were many young people among us who are no longer among us. We were all happy yesterday.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Survived Pilgrim: “There were no open routes. They had closed all the openings. There wasn’t even a way to enter. There were no ways open. He had a four-year-old daughter. He had her photo on his cell phone.

About six days after the beginning of his journey, he bought something online and sent it to her in Tehran so that she wouldn’t miss him. Again, 15 days later he bought a big doll for her daughter. The child had missed him badly giving him telephone and video calls. Therefore, he sent her and his wife to Mashhad. His family was still in Mashhad up to the Arafat ritual. Then, they went back to Tehran as we reached Mina. In the morning, he called and said that we had reached Mina and were going to the Jamarat. He has gone missing. We hope he’s safe. I hope so.”

   

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