Qatari pilgrims prevented from entering Grand Mosque in Makkah

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Saudi Arabia has reportedly prevented Qatari nationals from entering the Grand Mosque in Makkah marking a sharp escalation in the Gulf diplomatic crisis, Doha-based Al Sharq newspaper reported on Saturday.

Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) received complaints that pilgrims from Qatar were barred from entering the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah.

NHRC head Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri called the incident a flagrant violation of the right to practice religious rites as permitted by human rights conventions.

Read more: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE sever ties to Qatar over ‘terrorism’

The NHRC denounced the incident, considering it a violation of the right to perform religious rituals guaranteed by human rights conventions.

It should be noted that Saudi authorities do not normally question people entering the Grand Mosque on their ethnicity or sectarian affiliation.

The claims come a few days after the UAE and Bahrain criminalised expressed sympathy for Qatar on social media.

Also read: UAE stock markets fall on Qatar row escalation, oil price spikes

The UAE said offenders would be punished with a jail term of up to 15 years, and a $136,000 fine. Bahrain declared it punishable by imprisonment of up to five years.

The dispute between Qatar and the Arab countries escalated after a cyber attack on Qatar’s state-run news agency.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting “extremism”. Qatar has vehemently denied the charges.

In its statement, the Qatari government said it has been leading the region in attacking what it called the roots of “terrorism”, including giving young people hope through jobs, educating hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and funding community programmes to challenge agendas of armed groups.

Explore: Iran urges explicit dialogue between Qatar, Persian Gulf states

“Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement – a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors,” the government said.

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