Qatar says KSA barring Hajj pilgrims, Riyadh refutes claim
Sayeed Muhammad: Qatar has alleged that Saudi Arabia is barring its citizens from this year’s Hajj, but Riyadh denies it, claiming that a diplomatic dispute is not to blame in this case.
Although 1,200 Qataris are eligible to perform Hajj under a quota system, Qatar says it has become impossible to get permits, blaming the campaign by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to severe trade and diplomatic ties with it, reports Reuters.
Qatar National Human Rights Committee official Abdullah Al-Kaabi said Saudi Arabia had shut down an electronic system used by travel agencies to obtain permits for Qatari pilgrims.
“There is no chance this year for Qatari citizens and residents to travel for Hajj,” he told Reuters. “Registration of pilgrims from the State of Qatar remains closed, and residents of Qatar cannot be granted visas as there are no diplomatic missions.”
On the other hand, A Saudi official said Qatar had blocked several registration links set up for its pilgrims.
An official at Saudi Arabia’s Hajj ministry said a group of Qataris had arrived for the Hajj starting from Sunday to Aug 24. He, nevertheless, did not say how many there were or whether they had travelled directly from Qatar. Last year, 1,624 Qatari pilgrims attended.
Saudi Arabia says the Qatari government is using the issue for political ends and it “rejects any effort to politicise the hajj or drag political differences” into the pilgrimage, the official said.
Saudi Arabia, and the three other Arab countries, closed land, air and sea links with Qatar in July last year, accusing it of funding terrorism, something Doha denies.
Saudi Arabia has said Qatari pilgrims can arrive on any airline other than Qatar Airways.
But three travel agencies in Doha told Reuters they had stopped trying to sell hajj packages, which can cost up to $33,000.