31 Jul 2017 - 12:20
Qatar accuses Saudi of hampering Qatari hajj pilgrims
Doha: The Qatari authorities have accused Saudi Arabia of jeopardising the annual hajj pilgrimage to Makkah of Qatari pilgrims by refusing to guarantee their safety.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been blockading Qatar since June 5.
On July 20, Riyadh said that Qataris wanting to perform this year's hajj would be allowed to enter the kingdom for the pilgrimage, but imposed certain restrictions.
The Saudi hajj ministry said Qatari pilgrims arriving by plane must use airlines in agreement with Riyadh.
They would also need to get visas on arrival in Jeddah or Medina, their sole points of entry in the kingdom.
The Qatari Islamic affairs ministry, in a statement published by the official QNA news agency on Sunday, said the Saudi side had "refused to communicate regarding securing the pilgrims safety and facilitating their Hajj".
The ministry accused Riyadh of "intertwining politics with one of the pillars of Islam, which may result in depriving many Muslims from performing this holy obligation".
According to the statement, 20,000 Qatari citizens have registered to take part this year. The ministry said it denied Saudi claims that Doha had suspended those registrations.
"The distortion of facts is meant to set obstacles for the pilgrims from Qatar to Mecca, following the crisis created by the siege countries," the Qatari ministry added, referring to Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Director of Haj and Umrah Department at Awqaf, Ali Sultan Al Misifry said the department has started the registration for Haj from Qatar in March as usual, and closed it in the same month, as is followed each year to complete the usual procedures.
The number of registrations reached 20,000 national and resident pilgrims, of which many of them have started their arrangements. When the Saudi refuse to communicate and provide safety guarantees that will create apprehension to the pilgrims, especially when Qatari pilgrims have been facing unjustified obstacles and harassments.
Some Gulf media claimed the Qatari statement was a call for the "internationalisation" of the management of the hajj season, which is run by the Saudi authorities.
But Qatari Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani described the claims as "media fabrications."
"There has not been a single statement by a Qatari official concerning the internationalisation of hajj," he told Al-Jazeera news channel.
The hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime, is to take place this year at the beginning of September.