Pilgrims from Qatar face hurdles to perform Haj

 14 Aug 2017 - 2:11

Pilgrims from Qatar face hurdles to perform Haj
Prospective Turkish pilgrims pray ahead of their departure to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj pilgrimage, at Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir.

By Mohammed Osman / The Peninsula

By not paying heed to the voices being raised for facilitating Qatari pilgrims by global human rights organisations and Muslims across the globe, Saudi Arabia is harming the sacred spirit of Islam at the one hand and on other violating established religious and international principles.
People and institutions are asking that how can the fifth pillar of Islam — the Haj — can be used as tool for pressure to achieve political goals under the ongoing diplomatic crisis developed with the imposition of siege on Qatar.
Saudi Arabia this year has increased the Iranian quota by 35% and has also allowed 1,800 pilgrims from the Iraqi ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’, for which 10 percent of the Iraq quota has been allocated.
This is happening after a long Saudi spat with these forces at that time when Saudis are refusing to facilitate the Haj for Qataris on political reasons, said a comment in the social media.
There are around 25 Haj operating companies in Qatar, most of them have received applications of hundreds of people wishing to perform Haj this year as well some have received money to book accommodation, transport and other basic needs for the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, but their plans to operate the Haj campaigns this year seem to be vanished, said a Qatari citizen.
Abu Ahmed said that some of those companies had actually reserved hotels and had paid for all necessary preparations to meet the pilgrims needs and “what they have paid will not be refunded”. “Haj companies pay in advance and carry out all necessary preparations even three to four months before Haj,” he added.
The Saudi authorities recently announced that they welcome Qatari pilgrims but the country has set several conditions which invited many sarcastic comments on the social media by Qataris and non-Qataris.
The Qatari Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs has still not said anything about the fate of the Haj for Qataris waiting for the response from the Saudi authorities with which at the same time it has no direct communications.
If the Saudi authorities really want welcoming Qatari pilgrims let translate it into actions, said one of the Haj campaign organisers.
“The Saudi authorities must open the online services through which intending pilgrims and companies process their financial and administrative procedures including hotels, food and transportation,” said Jassim Al Hardan, owner of Al Tawba Haj campaign organising company.
There is no possibility now to run Haj campaigns even if the conditions are lifted because no time for doing any necessary arrangements, he added. “Adding to this, Qataris are now worried for their safety and security because of the media campaigns against them and their country,” he stressed.
Many Qataris who were planning to perform the Haj this year have got their money and documents returned because they have lost any hope for fulfilling their wishes to visit the holy places.
This situation has raised concern of many human rights organisations including the Qatar National Human Right Committee (NHRC) which urged the Saudis to facilitate the Qataris for Haj and also sought support of other organisations to convince the authorities to not bring the Haj into political differences.
In a joint statement, four human rights organisations said the restrictions that have been imposed by Saudi Arabia on Qatari nationals wishing to perform Haj this year is “a clear violation of the human right of a person to practice his/her religious rites”.
The country supposed to facilitate Haj procedures is impeding thousands of Qataris from exercising their right to perform their religious rites, said Swiss Organization for the Protection of Human Rights (SOPHR), Geneva; Association of Victims of Torture in Tunisia – Geneva; The International Observatory of Associations and Sustainable Development (ASDI); and Free Voice Organization for the Defense of Human Rights, Paris. These organisations have also urged the Saudi authorities “to comply with the international human rights conventions and not to make its dominance on the Holy Mosque and all the rituals related to the Haj a tool to use it in its political dispute.”
The Saudi officials have said that Qatari pilgrims are welcome but at the same time no restrictions have been lifted as local companies are not allowed to take care of the basic needs of the Qatari pilgrims.
Measures taken by the Saudi hindering the Haj of Qataris include entry into Saudi Arabia to be through two specific airports, ban on money transfer, ban on the use of Qatari currency, lack of direct flights, blockade of land routes and not allowing Qataris to enter from any other destinations.
Yesterday, SOPHR issued an urgent appeal to the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief (OHCHR) in which it said: “Saudi Arabia has inappropriately exploited its geographical control over the areas of performing the Haj rituals, and got them into political differences”.
Furthermore, SOPHR stressed that “Saudi Arabia has no ethical nor legal basis to take these arbitrary measures, preventing worshipers from performing the rituals of their religion, which is a violation of international law and its charters and conventions that require international accountability”.