Haj 1435: Yet another success story

Updated 19 October 2014
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Haj 1435: Yet another success story

Haj has never been so organized — from the trains that run on elevated tracks to the extremely helpful security forces on the ground and in the many helicopters that hover overhead informing the central operations command about possible bottlenecks.
Saudi Arabia has poured billions of riyals into infrastructure here at the holy sites. Most of these gigantic projects have been carried out in the last five years. They have helped ease the pilgrimage for the millions who come from the four corners of the world every year to perform the annual pilgrimage.
“Only Saudi Arabia can do this,” said Mohammed Shahnawaz, an Indian pilgrim from Delhi. His wife, Samreen, nodded in affirmation. “We were told by people who performed Haj in the past, that it would be very hard, very tough.”
Of course, Shahnawaz’s informants were referring to a time when Mina did not have a massive Jamrat complex with multiple layers featuring multiple entry and exit points. Stampedes were a regular occurrence because the pedestrian bridge was too small to serve millions of pilgrims performing the same task of stoning the devil within a limited time.
“People have no idea about the trains that have made the movement of pilgrims from Mina to Arafat and back a breeze. The thrill that you experience when you board a train is indescribable,” said Samreen. “It gives us energy and provides us with a new lease of life. Earlier pilgrims had no such luxury. They walked from one end of Arafat to the other end of Mina in order to reach Jamarat, a distance of nearly 10 km.”
Shahnawaz’s fellow pilgrims paid fulsome tribute to Saudi Arabia, its leadership and its warm and helpful people. “Allah has bestowed upon them rare honor and they have lived up to the expectations of the Ummah. They have provided services that seem impossible,” he said. “May Allah grant Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman a long life. We will always pray for them. They have taken excellent care of the guests of God.”
Ibrahim Khaleel from Karachi, Pakistan, said he was at the Haj in 2006. “Performing the stoning ritual was fraught with dangers. My mother was with me then and she is also here now,” he said. “At that time, I performed the stoning ritual on her behalf. This time, however, she accompanied me to the Jamarat Bridge and she herself stoned the walls representing the devil on Sunday,” he said.
Khaleel wept when he recalled the help provided by the security forces manning the complex. “They took my mother on their shoulders and carried her to the very wall itself so that she could easily throw the stones,” he said. “My mother’s reaction was to bless them. She put her hand on their heads and told them, ‘Your king is a good man, and because he is good and kind, Allah has given the honor to him of being the Custodian of the Holiest Mosques in Islam.’“
At the time of writing, Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif was visiting tents to check whether proper arrangements had been made. That personal care for the guests of God has endeared the Saudi leadership to all Muslims who perform the Haj. As one pilgrim said, “Allah will bless them with His bounties more than ever because they have done everything they can to ease the pilgrimage.”


Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki at a press briefing. (SPA file photo)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

  • Houthis want to disturb peace, says coalition spokesman
  • Stockholm peace agreement under strain

RIYADH: The Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government is committed to protecting regional and global security, a spokesman said Monday.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki was asked at a press briefing about Houthi militias threatening to target the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is their way to disturb peace,” Al-Maliki replied. “Previously the Houthis targeted Riyadh with a ballistic missile, violating all international laws by attacking a city that has more than 8 million civilians. We take all precautions to protect civilians and vital areas. The coalition works to protect regional and international security.”

Al-Maliki said Houthis had targeted Saudi border towns several times, the most recent incident taking place in Abha last Friday.

But the Saudi Royal Air Defense Force had shot down a drone that was targeting civilians, he added.

He said four Saudi nationals and an Indian expatriate were injured in the attack because of falling debris.

The drone wreckage showed the characteristics and specifications of Iranian manufacturing, he said, which proved Iran was continuing to smuggle arms to the militias.

He warned the Houthis to refrain from targeting civilians because the coalition, in line with international humanitarian law, had every right to counter such threats.

He said the coalition was making efforts to neutralize ballistic missiles and dismantle their capabilities, as the coalition’s joint command would not allow the militia to possess weapons that threatened civilian lives and peace.

Al-Maliki reiterated that the Houthis were targeting Yemeni civilians and continued to violate international laws. 

He also urged Yemenis to try their best to prevent children from being captured by Houthis, who were using them as human shields and child soldiers.

His comments came as the UN tried to salvage a peace deal that was seen as crucial for ending the country’s four-year war.

The Stockholm Agreement was signed by the Yemeni government and Houthi representatives last December.

The main points of the agreement were a prisoner exchange, steps toward a cease-fire in the city of Taiz, and a cease-fire agreement in the city of Hodeidah and its port, as well as ports in Salif and Ras Issa.

Militants triggered the conflict when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and attempted to occupy large parts of the country. An Arab coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognized government in March 2015.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump’s administration opposed curbs on American assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The way to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat the Iranian-backed rebels and ensure a just peace,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington.