Saudi Arabia has started issuing ID bracelets to Hajj pilgrims one year after a stampede killed around 2,300 people. The bracelets are a reassurance to some pilgrims, though their distribution has been far from systematic ahead of the formal start of the hajj on Saturday.
Public statements and Saudi press reports show that changes have been made to prevent overcrowding even though no one was ever blamed for the tragedy.
Saudi Arabia announced an investigation into last year´s stampede which happened during the hajj stoning ritual, but no findings have ever been published.
Each plasticized paper bracelet carries a barcode readable by smartphone. It indicates the pilgrim´s identity, nationality and place of lodging in Makkah.
Additional data includes a contact in the pilgrim´s delegation and details provided when his or her visa was issued, the vice secretary of the ministry of hajj and umrah, Issa Rawas, told AFP.
“The aim is to equip all pilgrims” from abroad, who are expected to number more than 1.4 million, he said.
Nabil Melhem, 61, a Palestinian bricklayer, wears the official ID bracelets, which he said cost about two riyals (53 cents). It is “like a passport,” said Melhem, from the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The bracelet is two centimeters (almost an inch) wide and colored green for pilgrims from Arab countries.