Saudi Arabia’s attempt to use religious rites to serve its political interests is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Saudi Arabia has taken arbitrary measures to curb Qatari citizens’ right to freedom of worship and the practise of religious rites.
Understandably, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) has expressed its deep concern at the Saudi authorities’ attempts to restrict the right of Qatar’s citizens and residents to perform religious rituals.
In a statement, the NHRC has pointed out that Saudi authorities prevented Qatar’s pilgrims from entering Saudi Arabia during the last Ramadan to perform Umrah, forced those inside the kingdom to leave without completing the rituals and placed restrictions on those wishing to perform Haj.
The organisers of Haj and Umrah in Qatar have complained about the harassment and difficulties they have faced at the hands of the Saudis, as well as the prohibition of remittance transactions by the Saudi authorities between the Qatari organisers and the Saudi Umrah agents who issue Umrah permits.
This is tantamount to blatant politicisation of the religious rituals by the Saudi authorities. It also constitutes violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 30 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the Gulf Co-operation Council Human Rights Declaration.
The NHRC is well within its right to raise this issue at all parliaments and international and regional human rights organisations and resort to the human rights enforcement mechanisms of the United Nations to ensure that Qatari people’s right to freedom of religious practice as a fundamental human right is protected.
The NHRC has renewed its call on competent authorities in Saudi Arabia not to use religious rites as a tool to mount political pressure in flagrant violation of international human rights conventions, stressing that this is in response to continued use of religious rites by Saudi Arabia to serve its political interests and preventing Qatar’s pilgrims from entering the holy places to perform Umrah.
Saudi Arabia’s use of religious rites in the existing political differences is not new in light of the continuation of the siege as well as the air embargo and the closure of land borders.
It is high time the international community, human rights organisations and the special rapporteur on freedom of religion intervened and dissuaded Saudi Arabia from imposing such unjust restrictions.
As the Qatari leadership has been saying since day one of the current crisis, Qatar does not fear the unjust siege and is ready to sit at the table and engage in frank and unconditional dialogue to resolve the fabricated crisis which has been created by the Saudi-led siege by making false allegations and accusations.
Qatar realises that the main goal of these countries is very clear, which is to suppress the independence of Qatar’s foreign policy, deprive Qatar of its dignity and sovereignty and close free media.