02 Aug 2017 - 1:30

Organisations urge Saudi not to use Haj as political weapon

QNA & The Peninsula

Two international organisations have voiced concern at the administrative harassment that may face Qatari pilgrims at holy sites and demanded the Saudi authorities to lift restrictions imposed on the right to worship.
Free Voice Organization, expressed its deep concern regarding rights violations while the Swiss Organization for the Protection of Human Rights (SOPHR) demanded the Saudi authorities to lift all restrictions imposed on the right to worship and to perform religious rituals.
Some Qatari nationals have had their Haj plans derailed amid a Saudi-led blockade, which has prevented local companies from making the necessary arrangements for the annual pilgrimage, Al Jazeera reported. Qataris were not banned from performing the Haj, but companies that organise Haj trips have encountered other limitations, including restrictions on flights from Qatar and difficulties in securing accommodation and transportation within Saudi Arabia. Most pilgrims from Qatar sign up with a Haj company that takes care of their accommodation, food and transport within Saudi Arabia for the duration of their pilgrimage.

The NHRC and the UK-based Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) have released statements asking for the facilitation of Haj preparations within Saudi Arabia.
AOHR pointed out that despite allowing Iran to establish consular services for the duration of the Haj, Saudi did not extend the same offer to Qatar. The Free Voice Organization said the Gulf crisis extended to affect the religious rite in addition to all the serious human rights violations that the Gulf and especially the Qatari people face as a result to the siege that started during Ramadan.
In Ramadan, the organisation registered a number of incidents where some Qataris were deprived the right to perform Umrah, where a Qatari was also forced out of the Ka’aba premises and deported him to Doha, the statement said.
Actions were taken by Saudi Arabia forcing pilgrims flying to Makkah to use airlines besides Qatar Airways, which doubles the financial, emotional and physical suffering. It also violates the mobility rights mentioned in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The organisation demanded Saudi Arabia to not use Haj as a political tool that would harm tens of thousands of pilgrims, and to take appropriate political, security, legal and human rights actions to facilitate the arrival of Qatari or non-Qatari pilgrims arriving from Qatar.
All violations committed during the days of the siege, including encroachment on the right of movement and travel, the economic siege on the Qatari people, the infringement of freedom of opinion and expression, obstructing the performance of religious rites and interfering in the internal affairs of Qatar, are systematic violations, that places those responsible under provisions of international law, the Swiss organisation SOPHR said.