Nigeria halts pilgrimage flights to Saudi

2012-09-28 12:07
Nigeria's President Good luck Jonathan (File, AFP)

Nigeria's President Good luck Jonathan (File, AFP)

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Kano - Hundreds of Nigerian women, among more than a thousand denied entry to Saudi Arabia, flew back from Jeddah late on Thursday after Nigeria suspended pilgrimage flights to the kingdom.

The angry would-be pilgrims, who were turned back because they were accompanied by men, denounced their treatment at the hands of the Saudi authorities, with one traveller saying they had been treated like criminals.

A total of 511 women arrived at the Kano international airport at 20:13 on a flight from Jeddah, some of them in tears.

Some of them said they had been kept at Jeddah airport as long as five days, under what they said were humiliating conditions.

"Some of us were kept in two halls for five days in humiliating conditions with little food, water and other basic needs and inadequate toilet facilities," said one of the women, Zainb Mohammed.

"Many of us have cold and fever. We did not have blankets and it was cold, especially at night.

Humiliated

"It is obvious that we will miss the hajj," she said, referring to the Muslim's hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Maryam Abdullahi said officials had humiliated them.

"I have never been so sad in my life like in the past three days," she said.

"We were held like criminals in debasing conditions. We deserve human treatment and as women and mothers, we deserve to be treated with honour but the Saudis have shown that they have no heart."

Earlier on Thursday, 102 Nigerian women returned to the country having been denied entry into the Kingdom because they were not accompanied by men.

A statement earlier on Thursday by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria described the situation as an "unprecedented and worrisome development".

Negotiations

More than a thousand Nigerian women stopped from making the hajj had been stranded for five days in Saudi Arabia.

Some were stuck at King Abdulazeez International Airport in Jeddah and others at Prince Muhammad Ibn Azeez International Airport in Madina, the commission said.

"After consultation with all stakeholders, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has been compelled to temporarily suspend all Hajj flights for the next 48 hours," it added.

The suspension of all flights would enable the commission to "appraise the situation critically", it added.

The first women began arriving at Jeddah airport on Sunday and 171 of them flew home to Nigeria on Wednesday.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday had set up a five-member team to negotiate with the Saudi authorities, an official statement said.

Roughly half of Nigeria's 160 million people are Muslim.

Read more on:    goodluck jonathan  |  nigeria  |  saudi arabia  |  religion  |  west africa
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