Tuesday June 25, 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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Saudi Arabia, Cuba on List of World’s Worst Fighters of Human Trafficking

The top U.S. diplomat said traffickers are currently victimizing nearly 25 million people worldwide

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on the release of the 2019 Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report at the US State Department in Washington, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) VOA

Saudi Arabia and Cuba are now on a list of countries the United States considers derelict in their responsibilities to combat human trafficking, raising the risk of sanctions against those countries.

In its annual report on human trafficking, the State Department accused ally Saudi Arabia of widespread violations involving foreign laborers and denounced Cuba for allegedly engaging in trafficking through its program that exports doctors abroad.

“If you don’t stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday in Washington, shortly after the report’s release. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) assesses what countries are doing to combat what Pompeo describes as “one of the most heinous crimes on Earth.”

The top U.S. diplomat said traffickers are currently victimizing nearly 25 million people worldwide. The State Department designated Saudi Arabia and Cuba as Tier 3 countries, the report’s lowest possible ranking. China, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela have also been designated as such.

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FILE – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. VOA

The U.S. said the Saudi kingdom has done little to help victims, choosing to, instead, jail, fine or deport them after accusing them of immigration violations or prostitution.Cuba, a long-time U.S. adversary, has threatened or coerced physicians to participate in its overseas medical program, the report said.

Some 8,300 Cuban medical workers who had been stationed in Brazil departed the country after President Jair Bolsonaro complained earlier this year the Cuban government keeps most of the wages paid to the workers, whom he described as “slave labor.

Tier 3 countries are subject to U.S. actions, including partial or total elimination of support from the International Monetary Fund or other international support organizations.

The U.S. president, however, can waive sanctions against Tier 3 countries with the hope it will encourage them act more aggressively against traffickers. Pompeo said the U.S. took actions last year against 22 Tier 3 countries.

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The annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) assesses what countries are doing to combat what Pompeo describes as “one of the most heinous crimes on Earth.” Flickr

The State Department report, which assesses 187 countries, concluded many world governments have enacted laws to hold traffickers accountable since the 2000 adoption of the United Nation’s Palermo Protocol. The pact requires countries to codify human trafficking as a crime both within and between countries.

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But the report calls on countries to do more to ensure protections for victims within their borders. Greater protections requires “political courage” to investigate “official power structures,” for example, and to “ending impunity for crimes that have long been seen as accepted local and cultural practices.”

“Acknowledging human trafficking within the borders of a country is not easy,” the report declared. “Governments should be willing to admit its existence and rise to their responsibility to address it.” (VOA)