Indonesian pilgrim, 95, heads for Hajj after King Salman invite

Ninety-five-year-old Uhi, from the Batulawang village of Indonesia’s West Java province, will soon embark on his Hajj pilgrimage. (AN photo)
Updated 28 July 2019

Indonesian pilgrim, 95, heads for Hajj after King Salman invite

  • Saudi king’s offer turns dream trip into reality for grandfather

JAKARTA: A king, a commoner and a YouTube video. As far as fairytales go, this story also has a happy ending.

And if all goes well, Uhi, a 95-year-old man from the Batulawang village of Indonesia’s West Java province, will soon embark on his dream trip — to visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj.

He will be accompanied by his three children and two grandchildren.

While they are undergoing health checks before their departure, their new passports have been submitted to the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta, where they have met the Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi.

Uhi — who like many Indonesians uses one name — still cannot quite believe that he and his family had been invited by King Salman to go to Hajj.

 

“I feel so happy. I could never imagine that this would happen. Once we arrive in Makkah, I just want to pray. Thank you for inviting me to go to Hajj,” Uhi said in Sundanese, his local dialect, during an interview with Arab News in his house on Tuesday.

The invitation came after a video message of himself and his two daughters — holding the king’s photograph while pleading in Arabic their wish to go to Hajj in spite of their family’s limited funds— went viral and was reported to have reached Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Uhi’s daughter, Nana Rohana, said they recorded the video just before Ramadan in their family house, which is located in Cipanas, a mountainous resort area about 95 km from the capital and a popular holiday destination.

Uhi and his family had befriended a regular Arab visitor, known only as Ali, who suggested making the video. He gave them the king’s pictures featured in the clip.

“I was just chatting with Ali in the house. He asked me ‘do you want to go to Hajj?’ And I told him I wanted to but I didn’t have the money. He jokingly said that he’d tell his president (the king). I really thought he was joking,” said Uhi, who is believed to be a nonagenarian because according to his family, he could remember the era when Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Uhi — who like many Indonesians uses one name — will be accompanied on the Hajj pilgrimage by his three children and two grandchildren.

• Their new passports have been submitted to the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta, where they have met the Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi.

Nana said that Ali had told them he would upload the video online after Eid. The family had no idea what happened to the clip until they got a call from a stranger, telling them that Uhi had been invited to go to Hajj. They didn’t believe it and they wouldn’t let him go alone anyway because of his old age.

But the invitation finally became a reality with a call from the embassy and a meeting with the ambassador.

“I was really moved. I still wonder if this is real, it gives me goosebumps and cold hands. I’m very grateful to Allah. It was my first time ever to set foot in an embassy. I kept thanking the ambassador. Alhamdulillah, this is a gift from Allah, just because this video went viral,” said Uhi.

Nana described the invitation as their “biggest gift from Allah” and that no amount of money could ever compare with it.

“My father always wanted to go on the Hajj pilgrimage. Alhamdulillah, it is happening now. Before we leave, I praise and thank the king who made it possible,” Nana said.


US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

Updated 50 sec ago

US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

  • The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material for the attack
  • The Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were housing US forces when it was bombed in 1996

DUBAI: A United States federal court held Iran responsible for the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia where US forces were housed, and ordered Tehran to pay $879 million to survivors. 

The Khobar Towers was a housing complex in the eastern city of Khobar, near the Abdulaziz Air Base and Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran, that housed American servicemen working on Operation Southern Watch.

A truck bomb was detonated on June 25, 1996, near an eight-story building of the housing complex, which killed 19 US Air Force personnel and a Saudi national and wounded 498 others.

The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material support to Hezbollah who detonated the 5,000-pound truck bomb, a Chicago law firm press release said. The attackers reportedly smuggled the explosives used in the attack from Lebanon. 


The lawsuit was brought under the terrorism exception of the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by the 14 injured US airmen and 21 of their immediate family members.

The defendants in the case were listed as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

“We will continue to seek to hold the Government of Iran accountable for this terrorist attack as long as is necessary,” said Adora Sauer, the lead attorney of MM LAW LLC.

US District Judge Beryl A. Howell found the defendants liable and awarded the plaintiffs $132 million for pain and suffering, as well as prejudgment interest, for a total compensatory damage award of $747 million and $132 million for punitive damages.


The court also said the plaintiffs are eligible for partial payments from the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates American victims of acts of international terrorism with funds obtained from fines and forfeitures levied against companies caught illegally laundering money for sanctioned countries and persons. 

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READ MORE: 45 Moments that changed the Middle East - The bombing of Khobar Towers

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The attorneys also intend to pursue enforcement of the judgments through litigation intended to seize Iranian assets.

“The physical and psychological toll on our families has been extremely high, but this judgment is welcome news. More than 20 years on, we want the world to remember the evil that Iran did at the Khobar Towers. Through the work of our attorneys, we intend to do just that,” said Glenn Christie, a retired Air Force staff sergeant crew chief who was severely injured in the bombing.


“The massive explosion took so much from their minds and bodies on the day of the attack in 1996 and every day and night since then. They can now live with that balance justice provides,” according to John Urquhart of the Urquhart Law Firm, who also represents the bombing victims.