Saudi hajj rules complicate pilgrimage for blockaded Qataris for second consecutive year

Saudi hajj rules complicate pilgrimage for blockaded Qataris for second consecutive year
Qatari authorities have denied Saudi accusations suggesting it failed to respond to Hajj and Umrah authorities to allow Qataris to attend the pilgrimage this year.
2 min read
02 July, 2018
Saudi Arabia has imposed [Getty]

Thousands of Qatari pilgrims are expected to miss Hajj for the second consecutive year because of tough conditions from Saudi Arabia, which is leading a blockade of its small neighbour.

In a statement issued by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, authorities said they allocated an electronic link to receive requests of Qataris intending on taking the holy pilgrimage this year after accusing Qatar's Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs of “wasting time”.

But Qatari authorities have refuted these accusations in the past, saying Saudi Arabia refuses to communicate directly with Qatar's Hajj to coordinate arrangements.

Despite the announcement, Saudi authorities continue to make it difficult for Qataris wishing to attend the annual pilgrimage by refusing their entry if they travel directly from Qatar or on Qatar Airways. 

Qatari pilgrims are unable to fly directly from Doha to Jeddah, nor travel by road via the Saudi border, due to the Saudi-led land, air, and sea blockade in place June 5, 2017.

Even if Qatari pilgrims can make the journey via third countries, Doha has said it is worried about potential "harassment" of Qatari pilgrims who make the journey to Mecca due to the political crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar in 2017 over accusations of supporting extremism and being too close to rival Iran, charges Doha has denied.

The four countries enforced a blockade on Doha, closing land, sea, and air links to the country. Gulf states also ordered Qataris to leave within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens.

Qatar says the Saudi-led bloc are seeking regime change in Doha, and has reiterated its calls on the Saudi authorities to exclude religious rituals from political disputes, while the spat has remained in a stalemate.

The four nations have demanded Doha accepts a list of 13 conditions, including shutting Al Jazeera and The New Arab, to open a dialogue to resolve the conflict.

Mediation efforts, mainly led by the emir of fellow Gulf state Kuwait, have so far failed to break the deadlock.

While the crisis has shaken the politics of the region, it has also had serious impact on the lives of ordinary civilians on the ground.

A report published last week found that families had been separated, imports - including medicine - obstructed, among other obstacles.

In January, the UN's human rights office accused the four countries of orchestrating a hate campaign against Qatar, which included threats to kill the country's emir