Amid Spat With Iran, Saudis Launch Persian Language Channel to Cover the Hajj

This year's Hajj started in Saudi Arabia on Saturday in absence of Iranian pilgrims due to a row between both countries on pilgrimage regulations.

DPA
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Muslim pilgrims hold noon prayers at Namira Mosque in Mount Arafat, southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on September 11, 2016.
Muslim pilgrims hold noon prayers at Namira Mosque in Mount Arafat, southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on September 11, 2016.Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP
DPA

Saudi Arabia has launched a Persian-language satellite television channel covering the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage amid an escalating spat with its regional rival Iran.

The channel, which started transmission on Saturday, is operating around the clock, a Saudi minister said.

"The channel aims at conveying the message of the Hajj, eternal meanings of Islam and what the kingdom is offering to the pilgrims and visitors, to the Persian-language speakers estimated at 130 million in the world," Information and Culture Minister Adel al-Toraifi said, according to the official Saudi news agency SPA.

The Persian language, also known as Farsi, is the language of Iran and is widely spoken in Afghanistan.

Al-Toraifi said the channel is being broadcast on four satellites, radio, smartphone applications and the internet.

This year's Hajj started in Saudi Arabia on Saturday in absence of Iranian pilgrims due to a row between both countries on pilgrimage regulations.

The Hajj, one of Islam's five pillars, lasts five days.

A war of words has erupted between Saudi and Iranian officials in the past few days.

This week, Saudi minister of religious affairs, Saleh bin Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, said that Iran does not want the Hajj to pass safely.

His accusation came a day a day after Iranian President Hassan Rowhani said that Saudi Arabia should be punished for its role in a deadly stampede at last year's pilgrimage.

Rowhani accused the Saudis of incompetence in the handling of the disaster.

Riyadh and Tehran have traded blame for the stampede, which claimed around 2,000 lives, based on a dpa tally and other independent reports. The Saudis had placed the death toll at 769.

Rowhani's comments came just days after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticized the Saudis as unbelievers and questioned the country's role in administering the annual pilgrimage.

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