Over 1000 female pilgrims were deported for being unaccompanied

Following tensions generated between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia over the arrest and deportation of female pilgrims from the former because they were unaccompanied by men, both countries held high level talks, on Saturday, to avoid potential diplomatic crisis.

About 1,000 Nigerian women pilgrims were sent back home from observing the Moslem holy rites, prompting the federal government to stop all hajj flights to Saudi Arabia.

Nigeria’s move to stop all hajj flights in what was seen as a retaliatory step that could affect Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector considering the fact that a large number of pilgrims come from Nigeria.

However, Minister of foreign affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, in a meeting with his Saudi Arabia’s counterpart, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in Washington, expressed strong objection to the treatment meted out to many Nigerian female pilgrims.

 “I also expressed the view that the action of the Saudi Authorities was not only unfortunate but did not truly reflect the historic friendly ties between the two nations,” Ashiru said. “I urged the Saudi Authorities to immediately find an appropriate solution to the problem while ensuring that these intending pilgrims are treated with respect and dignity so that they can consummate their religious duties and obligations.”

According to him, Prince Abdul Aziz expressed regret at the development and informed him that the denial of entry to unaccompanied female pilgrims was due to a requirement that all women must be accompanied by ‘Mahrams’ or their male guardians.

“He however informed me that efforts are being made to find an immediate solution to the problem and he expressed the hope that Nigerian pilgrims will in future fully comply with this Islamic injunction in order to avoid such unpalatable consequences,” the minister said.

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