Saturday March 23, 2019

Iran Pilgrims to participate in this year’s Hajj: Saudi Arabia

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Hajj in Saudi Arabia. Image Source: Wikimedia

Riyadh, March 17, 2017: Iranian pilgrims, after an absence last year during tensions between the regional rivals, will participate in this year’s annual Hajj, Saudi Arabia on Friday said.

“The ministry of hajj and the Iranian organization have completed all the necessary measures to ensure Iranian pilgrims perform hajj 1438 according to the procedures followed by all Muslim countries,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, referring to this year in the Islamic calendar.

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For the first time in nearly three decades, Iran’s pilgrims — which would have numbered about 60,000 — did not attend the Hajj in 2016 after the two countries failed to agree on security and logistics.

Riyadh and Tehran have no diplomatic relations, and tensions remain as Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia repeatedly accuses Iran of fuelling regional conflicts by supporting armed Shia movements in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.

But the Saudi Hajj ministry said that the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, welcomes “all pilgrims from all the different nationalities and backgrounds”.

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Custodian of Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia organises the annual Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to is obliged to undertake at least once in a lifetime.

Iran boycotted the Hajj for three years between 1988 and 1990 after clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police in 1987 left around 400 people dead.

Diplomatic ties were restored in 1991, but relations have deteriorated once again in recent years, particularly over the countries’ support for opposing sides in the Syria and Yemen wars.

In January last year, relations were severed again after Iranian demonstrators torched Saudi Arabia’s embassy and a consulate following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia figure along with 47 “terrorists”. (IANS)

 

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Tech Giant Google Refuses to Remove Controversial Saudi App

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have also criticised Google and Apple for allowing the app on their platforms

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Google has refused to pull out a controversial government app from Saudi Arabia which lets men track and control women who travel, saying it does not violate its Play Store policies.

According to a report in the Business Insider on Sunday, the tech giant told the office of California Democrat Representative Jackie Speier, who had called for the removal of the app called “Absher”, that the app does not violate its terms of service.

The US Representatives Speier, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and 11 others have demanded that Apple and Google must both remove the app.

Speier called Google’s response “deeply unsatisfactory”.

“The responses received so far from Apple and Google are deeply unsatisfactory. As of today, the Absher app remains available in both the Apple App store and the Google Play Store even though they can easily remove it,” Speier was quoted as saying.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California.

Apple was yet to announce its decision.

Absher allows Saudi users to access government services and also offers features which allow “Saudi men to grant and rescind travel permission for women and to set up SMS alerts for when women use their passports”.

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An earlier report suggested Saudi men could use the app to control female dependents.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have also criticised Google and Apple for allowing the app on their platforms. (IANS)