Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published a thunderous statement on Monday accusing Saudi Arabia’s rulers of being a “small and puny Satan” while calling for Muslims to reconsider Riyadh’s management of the holiest sites in Islam.
“The world of Islam, including Muslim governments and peoples, must familiarise themselves with the Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless, dependent and materialistic nature,” he said in a statement on his website.
“Because of these rulers’ oppressive behaviour towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj.”
Khamenei released the statement days before the beginning of this month’s annual pilgrimage, known as hajj, in which Muslims perform religious rituals at holy sites in the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina.
Some 60,000 Iranians took part last year, but have been effectively barred from this year’s event after negotiations between the two countries fell apart.
Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, who are the custodians of Islam’s holiest sites, of politicising the pilgrimage, and turning themselves into “small and puny Satans who tremble for fear of jeopardising the interests of the Great Satan [United States].”
“Saudi rulers… who have blocked the proud and faithful Iranian pilgrims’ path to the Beloved’s House, are disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the US and on fulfilling their demands,” he wrote.
This month’s hajj will be the first time in almost three decades that Iranian pilgrims have not participated.
Khamenei was also fiercely critical of the Saudi response to a deadly stampede during last year’s hajj, which killed a reported 2,300 foreign pilgrims, including an estimated 464 Iranians.
“Instead of apology and remorse and judicial prosecution of those who were directly at fault in that horrifying event, Saudi rulers – with utmost shamelessness and insolence – refused to allow the formation of an international Islamic fact-finding committee,” he said.
“The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers- instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them.”
Khamenei was also critical of Saudi Arabia’s regional role, which has seen the two countries be pitted on opposite sides of conflicts including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Bahrain.
The Iranian leader accused Riyadh of “forming and arming wicked takfiri groups… that have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars” in reference to militant organisations including the Islamic State.
Iran has regularly accused Saudi Arabia of being behind IS but Riyadh has consistently rejected these allegations, stating that they have been victim of attacks by the group and have led far-reaching operations against their militants.