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Saudi launches Persian Hajj TV after tensions with Iran

  • Published at 06:01 pm September 11th, 2016
Saudi launches Persian Hajj TV after tensions with Iran

Saudi Arabia has launched a Persian-language satellite television channel broadcasting the Hajj as Iranians abstain from the pilgrimage amid a dispute between the two regional rivals.

The Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Adel al-Toraifi tells Saudi media that the channel is also being broadcast by radio to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as via mobile phone applications and the internet.

Minister of Information and Culture Adel al-Turaifi said the 24-hour satellite channel would cover Hajj rituals and prayers from the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

“The channel aims to broadcast the message of the Hajj, the eternal meanings of Islam and to show what is being provided by the kingdom” during the pilgrimage, the Saudi Press Agency quoted Turaifi as saying.

It targets “Persian-language speakers, whose number is estimated at 130 million all over the world,” he said. Persian, also know as Farsi, is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

In the days leading to this year’s Hajj, which began on Saturday in western Saudi Arabia, Tehran renewed criticism of the kingdom’s handling of the annual rites and of a deadly stampede last year.

The accusations prompted verbal retaliation from Riyadh and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council of which Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia is the most powerful member.

Shiite Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the “cursed, evil family” of Saudi royals does not deserve to manage Islam’s holiest sites, while the top Saudi cleric Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said Iranians “are not Muslims”.

For the first time in nearly three decades, 64,000 pilgrims from Iran are not participating in the Hajj, after the regional rivals failed to agree on security and logistics. 

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