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Qatar files UN complaint over Saudi obstacles imposed on its Hajj pilgrims

The hajj is to take place this year at the beginning of September [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 July, 2017

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Qatar has filed a complaint to the UN over restrictions imposed on Qatari pilgrims amid the diplomatic spat between the Gulf nation and a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries.

Qatar has filed a complaint to the United Nations over restrictions imposed on Qatari pilgrims amid the diplomatic spat between the Gulf nation and a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries.

Qatar's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said on Saturday that it had filed the complaint to the UN special rapporteur on freedom of belief and religion over the "obstacles" put in place for Qataris planning to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The NHRC said in a statement that restrictions imposed on Qatari pilgrims were in "stark violation of international laws and agreements that guarantee the right to worship".

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia responded saying that Qatar's alleged demands to "internationalise" the hajj was a declaration of war against the kingdom.

"Qatar's demands to internationalise the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom," Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said, according to Al Arabiya.

"We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalization of the holy sites," he said, despite Doha never making such a demand.

The Saudi Hajj ministry said last week that Qataris and residents of the Gulf emirate could join the pilgrimage as long they were already "electronically registered for the hajj" and they had the necessary permits from Riyadh and Doha.

But the ministry imposed restrictions on Qatari pilgrims arriving by plane, saying they must use airlines in agreement with the Saudi authorities.

It added that they also needed to get visas on arrival in Jeddah or Medina, their sole points of entry in the kingdom.

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.

Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties and imposed sanctions on Doha in June, including the closure of their airspace to Qatari airlines.

The NHRC has said that since the beginning of the blockade it has received reports of Saudi authorities preventing Qataris from entering the holy city of Mecca to perform umrah - the non-mandatory lesser pilgrimage.

The four Arab states accuse Qatar of supporting extremists and of growing too close to Shia-dominated Iran, the regional arch-rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Doha has categorically denied the allegations.

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