For the second consecutive year, Qataris and residents of Qatar are unable to perform Umrah during Ramadan due to the restrictions imposed by the Saudi authorities.
Local Arabic daily Al Sharq reported on Monday that Qatari travel companies have refused to operate Haj trips through a third party as dictated by the Saudi authorities and demanded that pilgrims from Qatar should be allowed to travel directly to Saudi Arabia and on Qatar national carrier, and not through a third party or indirect routes.
Though defying the Saudi diktats would entail big financial losses for their companies, the owners insisted that upholding the dignity of Qatari pilgrims and their unconditional right to free access to Makkah through official and direct channels were more important to them.
Jassim al-Hardan, owner of a firm that organises Haj pilgrimage, stressed that he supported the stand of Qatar on the right of pilgrims from Qatar to direct means of transport from Doha to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. He pointed out that accepting to operate Haj trips through a third party was completely unacceptable because it was against national pride.
Similarly, Hamad al-Shahwani, owner of another company, expressed his regret that Qataris are unable to perform the Umrah for the second year in a row. He also said that many Qataris who used to spend this time of the year in Makkah in worship have expressed their sadness for the continued unfair situation that has deprived them of such an intrinsic religious right. He further pointed out that dictating conditions that Qataris should travel to Makkah through a third party is considered politicisation of Haj and this could not be tolerated.
Ali al-Naama, owner of another Haj tour operating company, said that the continuation of the restriction was very disappointing. "The Saudi Authorities insist on making things difficult for Qatari pilgrims and their conditions are not fair and could not be accepted."
Mohamed al-Kuwari, another operator, said that almost all Haj organising companies in the country have refused to engage a third party in the process and refused to comply with such undermining Saudi conditions.