Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another 44 Muslim Women Deported By Saudis In Dispute Over Chaperones

Despite high-level diplomatic talks with their Nigerian counterparts, Saudi authorities this morning deported 44 female pilgrims, dashing their hopes to make the Muslim obligation of Hajj in Mecca.

This adds to the 1,376 women already ruled ineligible to enter the Muslim spiritual capital since questions about the lack of male guardians arose.

The women flown back to Nigeria were from Kaduna and Kebbi States. Two men were said to be among the deportees.

According to the men, they were traveling with their wives but their surnames did not match and immigration officials refused to believe they were married.

An estimated 95,000 Nigerians are expected to make the journey this year - and all pilgrims flying to Saudi Arabia must land by Oct. 20.

The women, according to a source in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, were found without consistent information and lacked what is called Muharram (an approved male escort) as demanded by the authorities.

Saudi Hajj Ministry spokesman Hatim Kadi told Reuters yesterday that "The Nigerian pilgrims came with their visas stating that they have to have a male guardian accompanying them, either a brother, a husband, or another relative.

"Some came with their guardians and were allowed to enter. Those who came without their guardians were not. They violated the regulations which were clearly printed on their passports."

Some of the deported pilgrims complained of mistreatment while in detention. They said they were forced to sleep on the floor inside airport "There were no comfortable chairs, they were all steel chairs and the air conditioning was central. We were always shivering at night because of the cold, I am afraid we may end up contracting pneumonia.

Some people have since experienced asthma attacks," one of the pilgrims told a reporter.

Those affected were mainly from Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto. Meanwhile, many Nigerians are accusing the officials of not handling the matter appropriately. They said the problems might have arisen due to the Nigerian way of doing this in shoddy manner.

Attending the high-level diplomatic meetings were Rep. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, chairman
House committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep Bashir Adamu chairman House committee on Defence, Emir of Zuru retired General Sani Sami, Professor Shehu Galadanchi, Chairman National Hajj Commission Mohammed Bello and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi.

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