x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Nigeria resumes Haj pilgrimages to Mecca, ending row over women

Nigeria has resumed flights to Saudi Arabia for the annual Haj pilgrimage, ending a diplomatic row over the detention of hundreds of female pilgrims for arriving unaccompanied by men.

ABUJA // Nigeria has resumed flights to Saudi Arabia for the annual Haj pilgrimage, ending a diplomatic row over the detention of hundreds of female pilgrims for arriving unaccompanied by men, the country's Haj commission said last night.

Saudi Arabian authorities have deported more than 600 female Nigerian pilgrims and detained hundreds for trying to visit the Islamic holy city of Mecca without male relatives. Nigeria suspended flights to Saudi last week.

"Since the resumption of flights ... on Sunday a total of eight flights have been operated conveying 3,786 pilgrims to the holy land," the Haj Commission of Nigeria said in a statement.

"This success was recorded largely as a result of the directive given to state pilgrims' welfare boards, agencies, to ensure that only female pilgrims that have the appropriate Muharram [male companion] are boarded."

Women in Saudi Arabia are regarded as minors and require the permission of their guardian — father, brother, or husband — to leave the country, receive some kinds of medical treatment or work. They are not allowed to drive and are often expected to be accompanied in public by a male chaperone.