Thursday, May 07, 2009

Saudi Arabia

Yesterday afternoon I met a delegation from the Khaddam Almahdi Organisation (KMO), see below, comprising Sheikh Yasser Al Habib; Sheikh Ali Maash; Mr Mohammed Salah; Mr Hamid Rabie, and Sayyed Ali Al Nawab, for a discussion about the violence by the religious and local police against Shi’a pilgrims at the site of the Holy Prophet’s burial on February 26 and the days after that. The religious police, motivated by the Wahhabi ideology which forbids the veneration of holy sites, have destroyed the Prophet’s tomb and other sacred monuments , not only in Medina but in other parts of Saudi Arabia, and they have increasingly sought to deny the Shi’a, who constitute 15-20% of the population of Saudi Arabia, the right to worship at any of the holy places.

This year they attacked women pilgrims, and when the men tried to protect them, police used extreme violence including firearms, which led to the victims' serious injury and hospitalisation. Many people were arrested and barriers were erected to prevent pilgrims having access to the site.

The first request of the KMO is that the international community should ask Saudi Arabia to allow pilgrims freedom of access to pay their respects to the holy sites and to pray there.

Second, they ask that the ancient an historic buildings which have been demolished should be reconstructed.

Third, they ask that the United Nations should extend protection to the holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and for pilgrims visiting them. Its a pity that the opportunity of raising these matters at the UN's Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia in February was missed, even in the Stakeholders’ Report (

I have written to FCO Minister Lord Malloch-Brown, and will be writing separately to the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, Ms. Asma Jehangir, asking her to take these issues up with the government of Saudi Arabia.

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