Cause of Mina stampede
One of the Nigerian pilgrims at the 2015 Hajj in Saudi Arabia, Professor Ishaq Akintola, has revealed the cause of the stampede which occurred in Mina.
Akintola, who is a Professor of Islamic Eschatology, revealed that the stampede — in which over 700 lives were lost — was caused by the stubbornness of some pilgrims.
In an interview with The Punch, Akintola revealed that some Egyptian pilgrims had tried to use the entry route as their exit route, leading to the buildup of people and the eventual stampede.
He said: “What happened was this: there is usually a system with which pilgrims enter through the venue on the day of Jumrah. Jumrah is the day of stoning the Devil. Thus, when you go on your route; after stoning the Devil, you return by taking a detour which means you don’t take the same route back.”
“When that system is followed there will be enough room for those coming to perform the same pilgrim’s rite and that allows for enough room for people to move without hindrance or stampede. But on that fateful Thursday (when the stampede occurred), September 24; when we were going to the Jumrah, we found that the place was overcrowded and it was quite unusual.”
“We performed this rite last year; we did it the year before that and the road was free. For the past 10 years there had been no pandemonium; and no stampede on that road. It (stampede) used to happen almost every year in the past, but for the past 10 years, the Saudi authorities have been able to control the human traffic, by creating different routes for entry and exit of the place.”
“But, on that fateful day, we found out that some of those who had thrown their own stones made a U-turn instead of moving ahead to take a detour. They came through the route meant for entrance and not exit. They came towards us. They were in a very large group and the road was not spacious enough to allow a free flow of those of us coming to throw stones at the Devil and those who had stoned the Devil. The road could not take those coming and those going. And I discovered that most of those who took the wrong way were Egyptians.”
“I knew they were Egyptians because I heard them speak the Egyptian dialect of Arabic. And, of course, I studied in Egypt for five years. I know the dialect. Knowing that the road would not contain those of us going to perform the Hajj rite and the Egyptians who had already done theirs, we pleaded with them, we tried to persuade them to take the right route to avoid any ugly incident but they refused; the reason being that their camp was based close to the venue of the stoning.”
“And if they were asked to take the other way round to their camp, it would take them a long time to do so. They forgot that by facing us, they constituted themselves into a threat to life — too many lives and their own lives as well. Even if we had attempted to go back for them to pass through, it would have been impossible because a mass of pilgrims had built up and we were pushing one another.”
“The road became narrower and breathing became difficult. In the commotion, the Saudi police after noticing that the situation was getting out of hand climbed roofs of buildings and started splashing cold water on the crowd so that it could give us some comfort — because at that point, people were already tired and collapsing. They had walked 10km from Monzabizah to Mina and from Mina they were walking another three kilometres to the Jumrah.”
“At some point, we had to stand still. We tried to move to one side but it was impossible to do so as people coming from behind were pushing us forward. Consequently, we were forced to push those in front of us. I think it was just a few minutes that my group passed through the opposing crowds that the stampede began. I knew it was a tragedy waiting to happen.”