Minister of Interior holds annual Hajj press conference
October 21, 2012
At the annual Hajj press conference, Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz confirmed the preparedness of all Saudi authorities to enable pilgrims to perform the Hajj pilgrimage in comfort and safety. He affirmed that all sectors are ready to serve the increasing number of pilgrims and urged visitors to the Kingdom to adhere to the regulations of the host country.
Asked about the possibility of conflict between pilgrims of different nationalities or sects, Prince Ahmed predicted that worshippers will focus on their religious rituals and not allow the experience to be marred by politics. He added, “Of course, any one trying to take advantage of the pilgrimage for political matters, we’ll have to keep him at bay . . . Pilgrims from other countries get very angry if anyone tries to exploit the pilgrimage for political matters. Thus, it reverberates badly on any state or group trying this. I think it would be wise to avert it.”
Prince Ahmed insisted that Saudi authorities have in no way discriminated against Syrian or Iranian pilgrims. Regarding the attempted infiltration by a group of Iranians on the Kingdom’s eastern coast, Prince Ahmed said that the incident is being investigated. He reported that the Iranians claimed to be looking for work in Kuwait, but that they were let off a boat on the Saudi side of the border. “It did appear to us that they might have bad intentions,” he said.
Questioned about the reported detention and deaths of Nigerian women at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the Interior Minister stated, “First, I regret very much and feel pain if what you have mentioned is true regarding the service and the deaths.. . . but I do not believe anybody died because of their detention at the airport..” He said that most of the Nigerian women who were refused entry to the Kingdom to perform Hajj were under 35 years old and came without a muharam (legal male relative), which is contrary to regulations. “I will ask of the Governor of Makkah and Chairman of the Central Hajj Committee to investigate this matter thoroughly,” he said, “and if any of it is true, anyone responsible for this should be held accountable.”