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Qatar demands Riyadh lift 'oppressive restrictions' on hajj pilgrims, end dangerous 'hate speech'

Marri said "hate speech" in Saudi media was endangering the lives of Qatari pilgrims [TNA]

Date of publication: 12 August, 2017

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Qatar has called on Saudi Arabia to end unjust restrictions imposed of Qataris wishing to perform the hajj pilgrimage next month.

Qatar has called on Saudi Arabia to end unjust restrictions imposed on Qataris wishing to perform the hajj pilgrimage next month amid an ongoing diplomatic spat between the Gulf state and a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries.

Ali Bin Samikh al-Marri, the chairman of National Human Rights Committee [NHRC] in Doha, made the comments at a press conference on Saturday.

"Saudi Arabia must open direct routes for Qatari planes to allow pilgrims to travel by air to perform hajj and open the border crossing for Qatari pilgrims and pilgrims residing in Qatar," Marri said.

"We have called on international bodies to help end the violations," Marri said, denying accusations from Riyadh that Doha has attempted to "internationalise" the pilgrimage.

Marri said that the NHRC has received numerous reports of Qatari pilgrims being expelled from hotels in Mecca during the holy month of Ramadan, which came to an end late June.

He said that recent "hate speech" in Saudi media was endangering the lives of Qataris wishing to perform hajj or umrah pilgrimages.

Media outlets in the kingdom have accused Doha of being behind alleged attempts to bomb Mecca in collaboration with Iran and Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have been boycotting Qatar since June 5, accusing it of backing extremist groups and of ties to Iran, in the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years.

Doha has categorically denied the allegations.

The four Arab nations have closed their land and sea borders to Qatar and imposed economic and air traffic restrictions.

Riyadh has said that Qataris wanting to perform this year's hajj will be allowed to enter the kingdom for the pilgrimage, but only if they use airlines in agreement with Saudi authorities.

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 has said the Saudi side has "refused to communicate regarding securing the pilgrims safety and facilitating their hajj".

Last month, Qatar has filed a complaint to the United Nations over restrictions imposed on Qatari pilgrims.

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.

On Saturday, the Swiss Organization for the Protection of Human Rights criticised the Saudi restrictions on Qatari pilgrims.

"Saudi Arabia, by taking such arbitrary measures, which are not based on any moral or legal basis, prevents innocent people who have no relation to the political differences from performing religious rituals in violation of international law," the rights group said in a statement.

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